Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals
Russell Wilson remained undefeated at Century Link Field as the Seahawks defeated the Titans, 20-13 last Sunday. Wilson has won all 11 of his home starts for Seattle, the longest such streak to start a QB’s NFL career since Mark Bulger won his first 14 starts at home for the Rams (2002-04). However, this one’s in Arizona but it does not matter, another Thursday night clunker—Take the Hawks by a TD.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
The Bucs always the play the Falcons tough—In fact, Atlanta trails the all-time season series 19-20. Nevertheless, the Falcons have won seven of the last nine in the series and two of the last four. They did lose the last time these teams met last December in TB but Atlanta had nothing to play for. Things were also a lot different for the Bucs, who had Josh Freeman at QB then. Hard to imagine Atlanta losing at home to another rookie QB and Mike Smith is 4-1 after a bye week. He and his 1-4 Falcons caught a break with the Saints losing last week. Falcons by 10.
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Robert Griffin III’s surgically repaired knee performed a lot more like the knee from last season, at times vs. the Cowboys on Sunday night. He rushed for 77-yards, which is more than the previous four games combined. It was not enough to overcome his arm. Griffin was sloppy in the pocket with bad throws throughout the game, as he missed too many receivers while failing to complete 50 percent of his passes for just the second time in 21 career games. The Redskins have scored just one touchdown in the first half all season but for some crazy reason, I see them putting it together and beating the Bears at home. Redskins by a last second field goal.
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles
This is the type of game where having the ageless wonder, Monty Kiffin, may help the Cowboys. Against the Redskins and despite the early-game loss of DeMarcus Ware to a quadriceps strain, the Cowboys’ defense still played well. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher recorded two sacks and George Selvie continues to exceed expectations as a fill-in defensive end. Middle linebacker Sean Lee and cornerback Brandon Carr also had excellent games. Having just lost a track meet a few weeks ago to the Denver Broncos, Kiffin will have made the right adjustments to stop an Eagles offense not as talented as the Denver Manning’s. Tony Romo continues to have a quietly effective season and is 8-6 all-time vs. the Eagles. I like Dallas on the road by four.
New England Patriots @ NY Jets. (Upset Special)
Just so you know and before you laugh, I picked the Raiders over the Chargers two weeks ago and the Chargers over the Colts on Monday night. Yep—-I like the J-E-T-S Jet, Jets, Jets at home vs. a high on the horse Patriots team now. Yes, they had a great win over the Saints but this is the NFL and as we’ve seen this year, anything can and does happen. Geno Smith seems to have this every other week thing going. After looking like one of the league’s most promising rookies in Monday night’s win over the Atlanta Falcons, Smith regressed with an ugly showing at home. He missed a TD overthrowing Stephen Hill in the second quarter, then tossed two red zone interceptions in the second half. That means this is his week and he almost beat the Pats earlier this year. Jets by three.
Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins
The Bills remind me a lot of last year’s Kansas City Chiefs. They are not a very good football team but they are tough as nails at home. They beat the Ravens and Panthers earlier this season and nearly had wins over the Patriots and Bengals as well in Orchard Park. This one however is in Miami, where the Dolphins are coming off a bye week and a tough home loss to the Ravens. Filling in for the injured EJ Manuel, practice squad QB Thad Lewis threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to tie the game vs. Cincy on Sunday becoming the first Bills QB to erase a double-digit fourth qtr. deficit since Drew Bledsoe did it against the Jets in 2004. While Lewis was serviceable and exciting in the game, like Manuel he is also injured now. Buffalo signed the well-traveled and often cut Matt Flynn on Monday, as the team has no faith in rookie Jeff Tuel. The point to all of this is that Miami should not have any issues getting back on track at home. Dolphins by at least a touchdown.
St. Louis Rams @ Carolina Panthers
Both teams are coming off huge identical 25-point wins on the road. The Panthers demolished the Vikings and the Rams continued the leagues assault on the down and out Houston Texans. St. Louis lost every stat battle except turnovers vs. the Texans but they won the TO battle by a lot. The Texans committed 4 turnovers with two being returned for TD’s. Carolina’s offense is as Jeckyl and Hyde, as any in the league but their defense is as solid as any as well. I will take the Panthers defense at home vs. the Rams offense in this one. Panthers by four.
The Lions offense was expected to be better with the addition of RB Reggie Bush. However, having a rookie tight end that is creating problems for opposing defenses cannot hurt either. Joseph Fauria caught three passes in the Lions’ 31-17 victory at Cleveland, all of them for touchdowns. Fauria, an undrafted free agent from UCLA, was the first tight end in team history with three TD receptions in one game, and he has scored on five of his seven receptions this season. Over the last 25 seasons, only one other rookie scored on five or more of his first seven catches: tight end Eric Green of the Steelers in 1990. At 4-2 and in first place, the Bengals are lucky to be playing in the AFC North this year, the AFC’s answer to the NFC East. I like Detroit at home by three.
San Diego Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars. (UPSET SPECIAL No.2)
The Chargers are coming off a big win at home vs. the Indianapolis Colts, while the Jags hung around for a while vs. Peyton Manning and the Broncos ultimately losing but covering the embarrassing 28-point spread. Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for a season-high 71 yards and while that is not an indication, he is ready to return to MJD form, he did it vs. the top rushing D in the NFL. The Chargers won 38-14 the last time they played in Jacksonville two years ago but they are coming east to play a 1:00 game, which will feel like a 10:00 a.m. start to Philip Rivers and company. Factor in they will be doing this on a short week after beating the Colts on Monday night and while I do not have any stats to support my theory, mediocre football teams probably do not fare well in this scenario. The Jags are still an NFL team and will not finish the season 0-16. They played the Broncos better than the Giants did and I give them a shot here at home. TAKE THE JAGS BY A FIELD GOAL!
San Francisco 49ers @ Tennessee Titans
The 49ers defeated the Cardinals, 32-20. But the key to San Francisco’s victory was an 18-play touchdown drive that increased its lead to 29-20 in the fourth quarter, taking 9 minutes, 32 seconds off the clock. That was San Francisco’s longest TD drive (in plays) since they drove 18 plays behind Steve Young in relief of Joe Montana for their final points in a 38-7 win over the Seahawks 25 years ago (Sept. 25, 1988). Look for more of the same on the road in the Music City. Niners by six
Houston Texans @ KC Chiefs
Booing your own QB after he is injured is as classless as booing Santa Clause. The Chiefs will look to kick the Texans while they are down and with the way the Chiefs D is playing and the way the Texans are turning the ball over, this one could and probably will be ugly. KC by nine at home.
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
One of the best rivalries in sports continues again this weekend although with both teams struggling, it does not seem to possess the same sense of urgency, as the games have in the last five years. Three points or less has decided eight of the 10 regular season games between these teams since 2008. The Ravens have won 3 in a row at Heinz Field—make it four in a row with you guessed it—a 3 point Ravens win.
Cleveland Browns @ Green Bay Packers
The Packers return home after a tough win on the road in Baltimore. Green Bay’s offense was just waiting to bust out vs. the Ravens but could not in part because of injuries to two of their top WR’s. In the end, it did not matter vs. the Ravens that James Jones and Randall Cobb missed most of the game and it will not matter much with the Pack playing at home. The Browns became the Browns again in losing at home to the Lions. Take the Pack by 10.
Denver Broncos @ Indianapolis Colts
So, Colts owner Jim Irsay had this to say—” (Tom) Brady never had consistent numbers, but he has three of these,” Irsay told USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell, showing off his 2006 Super Bowl ring. “Pittsburgh had two, the Giants had two, Baltimore had two and we had one. That leaves you frustrated. You make the playoffs 11 times, and you’re out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). Mostly, you love (the ring).” Broncos HC John Fox responded by essentially saying it was a cheap shot by Irsay—Peyton was going to light Indy up anyway but now, the Broncos may just cover last week’s 28 point spread in the process…Take the Denver Manning’s by 20 in Indy—YES I SAID 20!
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Minnesota Vikings @ NY Giants
The Vikings and Giants are combined 1-10—Can John Gruden really spend three hrs. talking about Adrian Peterson and Eli Manning. Speaking of Eli–He threw his 13th, 14th and 15th interceptions of the season last Thursday in a loss to the Bears. Only one other quarterback in NFL history has started and lost each of his team’s first six games of a season while throwing at least 15 interceptions. That was Eddie LeBaron, who started and lost each of the first six games in Cowboys’ team history, in 1960; he threw 17 picks in those six games. Ever heard the expression if you do not know who the sucker at the poker table is—you are the sucker. I have this feeling the Giants cannot find the easy win on their schedule because they are the easy win for every other team– Vikings rebound with Josh Freeman starting at QB to win by six.