Archive for November, 2014

Thanksgiving: 1-2
2014 Season: 79-80

Washington Redskins (3-8) AT Indianapolis Colts (7-4) – Colts by 10

andrewluckPrediction: Colts, 27-14. Indianapolis continues to get tomato can opponents late in the season. Washington going back to Colt McCoy likely signaled the end of RG3’s career there. Too bad it won’t make much of a difference for the Redskins against a far superior Indianapolis roster.

Tennessee Titans (2-9) AT Houston Texans (5-6) – Texans by 7

Prediction: Texans, 20-17. Houston’s Ryan Mallett is banged up but expected to play. Meanwhile, first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney continues to miss time with a knee injury. If Houston is to keep their thin playoff hopes alive, a win against the lowly Titans is a necessity. I doubt the Texans have what it takes offensively to blow out Tennessee. But, JJ Watt and their defense should be up for the task.

Cleveland Browns (7-4) AT Buffalo Bills (6-5) – Bills by 3.5

Prediction: Bills, 24-20. This Rust Belt battle is critical to both team’s playoff hopes. If Buffalo wins, they could put themselves in fine position for a late postseason run. Cleveland has taken things down-to-the-wire over the last few weeks, and this affair should be no different. The emotional lift of returning home to play in front of their home town crowd should be enough to carry the Bills to victory.

San Diego Chargers (7-4) AT Baltimore Ravens (7-4) – Ravens by 6.5

Prediction: Ravens, 23-20. The Chargers are one of those teams that continuously underwhelms when it matters most. I feel like they should be an easy cover here against an inconsistent Ravens team. But, the Chargers’ offense has not shown the consistency necessary to win tough road games. I’ll take the Ravens to squeak by.

New York Giants (3-8) AT Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10) – Giants by 3.5

Prediction: Giants, 28-20. It seems like ages ago that the Giants were 3-3 and everyone was buying into the hype. Now, five consecutive losses later, the Giants find their first winnable game in awhile. Whether or not they actually win will depend on Eli Manning’s ball security. But, Tom Coughlin doesn’t want his career to end with eight straight losses. I’ve got to think that the Giants will win one of these days.

Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1) AT Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9) – Bengals by 4

Prediction: Bengals, 34-17. Every week, there’s one spread that just doesn’t make sense. This week, the playoff contending Bengals are barely favored against a Buccaneers team that is breaking new boundaries of futility. Andy Dalton may not be Mr. Clutch. But, road games in Tampa Bay are his specialty. No pressure, no hype, no problems for the Bengals.

Oakland Raiders (1-10) AT St. Louis Rams (4-7) – Rams by 6.5

Prediction: Rams, 20-10. In a matchup of two former (and perhaps future) inhabitants of Los Angeles, the Rams should have no problem with the Raiders. Even if the latter is coming off their first victory of the season. St. Louis saw their young receivers improve during last week’s loss to San Diego. Expect Shaun Hill to come up with just enough to overcome Derek Carr at home.

New Orleans Saints (4-7) AT Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4) – Steelers by 5

petersonPrediction: Steelers, 26-23. The Steelers are one of those teams that tends to play up or down to their competition. Their losses to New York and Tampa Bay this season are examples of that. Meanwhile, the Saints remain somehow right in the thick of things in the NFC South. I’d think that Pittsburgh’s run game is the difference in this matchup. But, that they’ll keep the Saints in it until the very end.

Carolina Panthers (3-7-1) AT Minnesota Vikings (4-7) – Vikings by 2.5

Prediction: Vikings, 26-24. The Carolina Panthers are just a mesmerizing team. They still have the core of a defense that ranked up near the top last year. But, that unit is now teetering near the bottom of the NFL. Cam Newton, meanwhile, has no weapons to work with outside of Kelvin Benjamin and the injuries are beginning to mount up. Minnesota isn’t looking much better. But, the HFA factor should be enough to give them a narrow win in this clunker.

Arizona Cardinals (9-2) AT Atlanta Falcons (4-7) – Cardinals by 2.5

Prediction: Cardinals, 17-13. Hammer the under on this one. Arizona can’t seem to get out of their own way offensively with Drew Stanton under center. Meanwhile, the Falcons are 0-7 outside of the NFC South. Arizona’s defense is still stout, and I would never bet on Matt Ryan to dissect a unit this profound.

New England Patriots (9-2) AT Green Bay Packers (8-3) – Packers by 3

brayrodgersPrediction: Packers, 28-19. Boston’s overconfidence this weekend is another example of classic Patriot fans. As their fanbase charts their Super Bowl parade, the New England Patriots face their stiffest competition yet. Something tells me they’ll be calling for Brady’s head like they were two weeks ago when New England gets flattened by the buzzsaw that is the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau.

Denver Broncos (8-3) AT Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) – Broncos by 1.5

Prediction: Chiefs, 27-24. I’ve gone back-and-forth on this one for awhile. Kansas City is a tough out at home, and they have to be fuming following their Thursday night loss to Oakland. Denver, meanwhile, has looked incredibly beatable over the last few weeks. This is the Chiefs’ chance to put themselves in position for a division title. Something tells me that’s exactly what they’ll do.

Miami Dolphins (6-5) AT New York Jets (2-9) – Dolphins by 7

Prediction: Dolphins, 28-13. The Geno Smith experiment resumes, as the 2nd year QB replaces Michael Vick under center for the Jets. That’s unlikely to help New York very much down the stretch, as the Rex Ryan farewell tour returns to New Jersey for a primetime matchup with Miami. Ryan Tannehill and Co. blew a golden opportunity last weekend against Denver. They won’t have much of a problem with the lowly Jets.


The home stretch begins with a battle in Big D.

boykinanddezFor the first time since 1989, the Philadelphia Eagles will duel with their wretched rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, on Thanksgiving. The Bounty Bowl, as it’s become known over time, further fueled a century’s worth of hate between these two bitter nemesis. Tomorrow, that storied battle will continue, with new faces joining familiar ones on both sides of the war.

Tony Romo is back. As is DeMarco Murray (the NFL’s leading rusher), Dez Bryant, and head coach Jason Garrett. But, it’s newcomers like OG Zach Martin that have propelled Dallas to a tie atop the NFC East. For the Cowboys, the season’s final 5 games aren’t about merely making the playoffs. It’s about ushering out two decades worth of failure. Since 1997, Dallas has won just one postseason game. That level of mediocrity, especially for America’s Team, has left a sour taste in the mouths of owner Jerry Jones and the Dallas fanbase.

Against Philadelphia, the Cowboys may face their stiffest test all season long. That’s because the much maligned defensive unit has not had the opportunity to do battle with an offense as dynamic as the Eagles’ can be.The best offense the Cowboys have faced this year might be New Orleans, and even that is stretching it considering the Saints’ performance this year. The Cowboys’ wins all come at the expense of teams with bottom 15 passing games. Something that they won’t have the luxury of facing on Thursday.

romo2It’s not as though Dallas can rely on home field advantage getting them by, either. All three of Dallas’ defeats this season have come at AT&T Stadium, including losses in their last two games. The Cowboys may have put up 30+ points six times this year. But, 2/3 of those performances came away from The Lone Star State. For some reason, the Cowboys are being painted by the media as a true contender. Despite the fact that their futility at home has been clear. Upcoming home games against playoff contenders Philadelphia and Indianapolis will do little to remedy the problem.

On the other side, you have the Eagles. Philadelphia’s road woes have been well documented. The Eagles’ last road effort (if you can even call it that), resulted in a blowout defeat at the hands of the Packers. All three of Chip Kelly’s losses this season have come away from The City of Brotherly Love. Granted, two of those three losses came by four or fewer points.

Offensively, the Eagles will rely on the three-headed monster of McCoy, Sproles, and Polk to set up the play action pass for Mark Sanchez. The former New York Jets QB has been efficient for the Eagles. Even if his turnover ratio continues to be consistently disappointing, the Eagles have proven throughout 2014 that they can still escape thanks to a takeaway hungry defense and the best special teams in the NFL. I’d expect a few “Romo Specials” against a hungry Philly D and some fireworks from the special teams, as well. After all, Dallas has some of the worst return and coverage units in the NFL.

All in all, it’s an exciting time at the top of the NFC East and the winner of Thursday’s affair will have a leg up on the loser for the division crown and a home playoff game. For Philadelphia, a victory on Thanksgiving would put them one game up and 3-0 in the division with a home battle against Dallas looming in two weeks. It’s not a must win for either. But, tomorrow’s action will have a large role in the eventual fate of both teams.

Line: Cowboys by 3.5
Prediction: Eagles, 27-23

And now to the rest of Thursday’s action:

Last Week: 7-8
2014 Season: 78-78

Chicago Bears (5-6) AT Detroit Lions (7-4) – Lions by 7

Matthew+Stafford+Chicago+Bears+v+Detroit+Lions+obgu7EAHgmRlPrediction: Lions, 20-14. The spread’s a little large for my liking considering that Detroit hasn’t scored a touchdown in three weeks. It’s a must win game for both, really. Chicago will be virtually eliminated if they lose again. Meanwhile, Detroit returns home after going through the gauntlet of facing the best teams in each conference in back-to-back weeks (Arizona and New England) on road. Matt Stafford’s inconsistency will continue to show. But, it’s the Lions who will escape Ford Field with a much-needed win.

Seattle Seahawks (7-4) AT San Francisco 49ers (7-4) – 49ers by 1

Prediction: 49ers, 17-14. The first rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game pits two Western Division opponents battling for their playoff lives. Each of these teams would love a split in their home-and-home series. But, even that might not be enough to get both into the playoffs in a crowded NFC. Seattle on the road is a much different animal than at home (2-3 record). The 49ers’ defense, meanwhile, is now healthy. I reckon they’re on a similar level to Seattle’s at this point. If Colin Kaepernick can exercise the demons that have haunted him since last January, he and the 49ers will be inching their way back to the playoffs soon enough.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Total and complete domination.

fletcherThat’s what we saw on Sunday in Green Bay. The Philadelphia Eagles, leaders of the NFC East, were utterly eviscerated by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in front of a packed Lambeau Field crowd, 53-20. This game was never even close. The Packers, with their four Super Bowl titles, made the Eagles’ defense look like the NFL equivalent of the Bad News Bears. The offense, hampered by turnovers, wasn’t much better. At one point, I was pretty sure Chip Kelly’s head was going to explode.

But, this is the NFL. If one focuses too much on the failures of the past, the future will turn too dim to see.

This weekend, the Eagles get the good fortune of what some would call a “tomato can” opponent. That is, someone that the Eagles should fully dent, ding, and dismantle. That’s because the Tennessee Titans come to town for a 1:00 PM start at Lincoln Financial Field. The Titans, far from their glory days of Steve McNair and Eddie George, come into this week’s affair with a 2-8 record. Their defense can’t stop the run (though we heard that about Green Bay, as well) and the offense is led by a sixth round rookie. Anything less than a blowout victory will likely result in the city of Philadelphia’s immediate destruction. I kid the City of Brotherly Love. After all, if they didn’t burn the city to the ground after the 2002 NFC Championship Game, then nothing will send them to Vancouver type levels of despair.

hi-res-ee235b0914cb5dcc07dac48060263c45_crop_northStill, the psyche of the Philadelphia fanbase is teetering on edge. They know what daunting tasks lay ahead of their team. Following their matchup with Tennessee, the Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys twice and the defending champion Seattle Seahawks all in the course of 17-days. That’s a whole lot of talent that Philadelphia has to regroup for. Thankfully, two of those games will be played at home, where the Eagles are a perfect 5-0 this season.

Philadelphia should have no problem for Tennessee. While the Titans looked decent in losing 27-24 to Pittsburgh on Monday; it’s well documented that the Steelers play down to their opponents (losses to Tampa Bay and New York). Zach Mettenberger will make a plethora of mistakes, and those problems are undoubtedly going to lead to Eagles points. Expect a solid, bounce back performance from Philadelphia.

It’s what comes after this Sunday that Philadelphia fans are worried about.

Line: Eagles by 11
Prediction: Eagles, 41-17.

Let’s see if I can recover…

Last Week: 4-10
Best Pick: Bengals over Saints, 33-24
2014 Season: 71-70

Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) AT Oakland Raiders (0-10) – Chiefs by 7.5

Prediction: Chiefs, 24-7. Am I dreaming with the spread being this low. If I were a gambler (ahem), I’d be putting a solid amount of money on KC here. I know Thursday night is fluky. But, it’s the 0-10 Raiders against a Chiefs team that just beat the Seahawks. I know it’s a short week and there’s a chance for a letdown. But, this is still a big rivalry and the black hole is just that, sucking all the talent out of the Raiders. Chiefs and this is my stone cold mortal lock.

Cleveland Browns (6-4) AT Atlanta Falcons (4-6) – Falcons by 3.5

Prediction: Falcons, 20-17. I don’t love the half-point here. Falcons are a very good home team, even though their 2-2 record wouldn’t suggest it. Meanwhile, Cleveland just lost to Houston and Ryan Mallett on Sunday. The Browns are the more complete team. But, they’re still from Cleveland. It would be a real Browns move to continue the second half swoon by putting the suddenly soaring Falcons closer to respectability (and keep their hold on first place in the NFC South).

Detroit Lions (7-3) AT New England Patriots (8-2) – Patriots by 7

RobGrnkPrediction: Patriots, 21-17. People in New England are sleeping on the Lions similarly to the way teams would sleep on the Browns. Detroit doesn’t exactly have the greatest of track records, and I don’t think they go into Foxboro and beat the Patriots. However, I do like their defense, primarily the defensive line. New England’s line had trouble at times last week and has been average most of the year. Most of Detroit’s games seem to go down to the wire. So, why should this be any different.

Green Bay Packers (7-3) AT Minnesota Vikings (4-6) – Packers by 10

Prediction: Packers, 27-16. Green Bay at home is a little different than Green Bay on the road. Still, the Vikings’ offense hasn’t gelled this season. That’s not surprising considering the fact that they lost their best player (Adrian Peterson) and have gotten subpar QB play (Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater). That won’t chance against the Packers, who are suddenly very close to being in first place and grabbing a potential bye week in the playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) AT Indianapolis Colts (6-4) – Colts by 14

Prediction: Colts, 30-13. Jacksonville comes into this one 0-5 on the road and winless in the AFC South. The Jaguars haven’t been dumpster fires over the last few weeks. But, their offense has scored more than 17-points only twice all season. I don’t really see that changing against a Colts team that got embarrassed at times by the Patriots last week. Andrew Luck will have a huge day, as usual.

Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1) AT Houston Texans (5-5) – Texans by 1.5

Prediction: Bengals, 24-20. Really? The Texans are the favorites in this game? Cincinnati is the much better team and this game is at 1:00 PM, so Andy Dalton won’t wet his pants. Ryan Mallett had a nice debut against the Browns. But, he’ll find Cleveland’s Ohio neighbors to be less kind.

 New York Jets (2-8) AT Buffalo Bills (5-5) – Bills by 4

Prediction: Bills, 23-17. The location, date, and time of this game is subject to change. The torrential snowstorm in the Niagara area being the reason for that. However, little makes me think that the lowly Jets can go on the road (0-4 this season) and beat a Bills team clinging to their playoff lives.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) AT Chicago Bears (4-6) – Bears by 6

Prediction: Bears, 27-17. Chicago’s offense finally showed glimpses of their former success last week. If they hope to make a run at the playoffs, the Bears will need that to continue for Jay Cutler. If they want to beat the Buccaneers, the Bears probably just have to show up on Sunday. Granted, both of Tampa’s wins have come on the road this season. But, I think last weekend’s blowout of Washington was probably the pinnacle of their 2014 campaign.

Arizona Cardinals (9-1) AT Seattle Seahawks (6-4) – Seahawks by 7

Prediction: Seahawks, 23-20. This spread seems entirely one-sided considering the records and trajectory of each team coming into this weekend. Granted, Seattle has been thoroughly predictable (4-1 at home, 2-3 on the road). But, it’s Arizona that continues to shock the world, winning games even without Carson Palmer’s leadership. I think they’ll have trouble coming out of Seattle with a victory for the second straight season. But, covering a way too large 7 point spread shouldn’t be a problem.

St. Louis Rams (4-6) AT San Diego Chargers (6-4) – Chargers by 4.5

Prediction: Chargers, 16-10. San Diego’s offense hasn’t exactly been awe-inspiring of late. They’re also facing a Rams defense that limited Peyton Manning and the Broncos to 7 points last week. But, that was at home, and St. Louis is a much better team when they’re playing inside the dome. Philip Rivers and the Chargers know this is a critical game if they hope to grab an AFC Wild Card. They’ll hold on.

Miami Dolphins (6-4) AT Denver Broncos (7-3) – Broncos by 7.5

Denver Broncos v St. Louis RamsPrediction: Broncos, 30-20. I know that Denver hasn’t looked very good their last three weeks (1-2 over that span). But, they return home in week 12, where they haven’t lost all season. Miami, meanwhile, has been a solid road team this season. I think they’ll manage to keep this one close enough to make it a worthwhile watch. But, Peyton and Co. are just too powerful on offense.

Washington Redskins (3-7) AT San Francisco 49ers (6-4) – San Francisco by 9.5

Prediction: 49ers, 26-14. The Redskins are an absolute mess. Infighting and inconsistency has Jay Gruden’s seat getting warmer by the day. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is used to that feeling. Though, with a win, his team will be right in the thick of the wild card race. Expect the 49ers’ solid defense to limit the hapless Redskins all evening.

Dallas Cowboys (7-3) AT New York Giants (3-7) – Cowboys by 3.5

Prediction: Cowboys, 27-23. This spread is pretty low. But, it’s a divisional game on the road in the cold. Dallas has had some problems with those in the past. I don’t think the Cowboys will be tripped up on Sunday by a reeling Giants team. But, their real problems begin four days later, when they have to return home on short, short rest to take on the Eagles for the lead in the NFC East.

Baltimore Ravens (6-4) AT New Orleans Saints (4-6) – Saints by 3

Prediction: Ravens, 25-23. This is the third consecutive game that New Orleans has been favored at home despite their pathetic performances there. I reckon that trend will continue. The Ravens are coming off of their bye and should be refreshed. Expect a big day from Joe Flacco, who has quietly put together a solid campaign.

sprolesHome cooking has been delectably sweet for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014. With a record of 5-0 at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles have met and exceeded every expectation of the pundits and the fans. After their 45-21, Monday night massacre of the Carolina Panthers, Mark Sanchez and Co. are riding high and on top of the NFC East. This despite ranking second to last in the NFL in turnover ratio and red zone percentage.

Sanchez, tossed to the wolves by the New York Jets and the Big Apple media, has reestablished himself as a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s high tempo offense. The 2009 1st round pick is more mobile than Nick Foles, while still possessing the poise and moxie than helped him lead the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games earlier in his career. He, along with Darren Sproles (who scored two touchdowns Monday) and Jordan Matthews (two of his own) have proven to be critical offseason pickups as the Eagles continue to fly along without the maligned DeSean Jackson.

Perhaps the most surprising improvement Philadelphia has made this season is in their pass rush. The Eagles are now atop the league in sacks, a fact thought impossible prior to the season, especially with rookie 1st round pick Marcus Smith II held to goose eggs in that category. Conor Barwin (10.5 sacks) and Trent Cole (4.5) leading the way, Philadelphia’s defense continues to wreak havoc on opposing teams. They’re still susceptible to the big play. But, the Eagles’ improvement in that facet of the game is a real testament to Howie Roseman and Bill Davis.

This week, the Eagles will face their stiffest test yet as they travel to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field for a battle with the rodgerspackGreen Bay Packers. At 6-3, the Pack are resting right outside the playoff field. But, Aaron Rodgers is coming off of a 6-touchdown performance, and Green Bay’s offensive balance has gotten much more equal as the season has gone on. While Philly’s run defense has been brilliant, stopping the burly Eddie Lacy is a task best left to imagination.

With weapons like Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Jarrett Boykin, Rodgers will have plenty of tools with which to dissect the Eagles’ defense. Meanwhile, Green Bay’s defensive unit had a field day in their blowout win against Chicago. But, that’s not to say that they’re without serious flaw. The Packers’ run defense has ranked in the bottom-3 for most of the season, and that’s unlikely to improve against the Eagles’ running attack and healthy offensive line.

In the end, this promises to be yet another exciting matchup involving Philadelphia. Hence why the game was flexed by Fox into their America’s Game of the Week slot at 4:15 PM. After going with the Eagles all season, Skood Sports is finally siding with the bad guys. While I think the Eagles could win this game, going on the road and beating Aaron Rodgers is something few teams do. It’s also something Philadelphia has never done.

Line: Packers -6.5
Prediction: Packers, 34-30

Now, on to the rest of week 11…

Last Week: 5-8
Best Pick: Dallas, 31-17
2014 Season: 67-60

Buffalo Bills (5-4) AT Miami Dolphins (5-4) – Dolphins -4.5

Prediction: Dolphins, 24-17. I have zero faith in Buffalo’s offense, on a short week, to come up with anything resembling and NFL gameplan. The Bills under Kyle Orton have become very hit-or-miss. Meanwhile, the Dolphins may be hitting their stride at the right time. Despite a tough loss last week, Miami can be right in the thick of the AFC playoff race with a win at home.

Minnesota Vikings (4-5) AT Chicago Bears (3-6) – Chicago -3.5

Prediction: Vikings, 24-21. Remind me again why Chicago is favored here? The Bears have looked like cubs for basically the entire season. They’re also pathetic at home (0-3) and facing a Vikings team coming off of their bye week. Give me Teddy Bridgewater over Jay Cutler as Marc Trestman’s Chicago career continues to go down the tubes.

Houston Texans (4-5) AT Cleveland Browns (6-3) – Browns -3.5

Prediction: Browns, 26-20. Cleveland is 4-1 at home this season. They’re also facing a QB in Ryan Mallett who is making his first career start. That doesn’t bode well for the Texans, who need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. A banged up Arian Foster will get some vigor back in his legs after their bye week. But, it probably won’t be enough.

Seattle Seahawks (6-3) AT Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) – Chiefs -2

Prediction: Seahawks, 19-14. This is a classic, old school battle of two teams with impenetrable defenses and fierce running games. A lot of pundits are drinking the Kansas City Kool-Aid, and not only because Andy Reid looks like the Kool-Aid man in his red Chiefs’ jumpsuit. I like both of these teams. But, I think Russell Wilson is going to be the difference in what should be a stellar affair.

Atlanta Falcons (3-6) AT Carolina Panthers (3-6-1) – Falcons -1

Prediction: Falcons, 28-25. There’s nothing pretty about the 2014 NFC South. A pair of teams with 3 wins after 10 weeks are still right in the thick of things. The sad part is that one of these also-rans is going to host a playoff game against a team with a better record. Regardless, neither of these teams can afford another loss in the division, and after watching Cam Newton last week against Philadelphia, I cannot bring myself to pick the Panthers any time soon.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-3-1) AT New Orleans Saints (4-5) – Saints -7.5

Prediction: Bengals, 33-24. The Saints’ defense didn’t look as bad as it typically does against a 49ers team without a game breaking receiver. That will change this week, when the Bengals will look to avenge a pathetic offensive performance behind AJ Green. If Andy Dalton doesn’t come to play for the second consecutive game, it’s panic time for Marvin Lewis.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8) AT Washington Redskins (3-6) – Redskins -7.5

Prediction: Redskins, 36-20. Typically, I make it a point not to pick the Washington Redskins to cover, especially when it’s over 6.5 points. However, Tampa Bay has redefined the definition of “tomato can.” They can’t run. They can’t pass. They can’t defend. It might be one-and-done for Lovie Smith in Tampa, who haven’t been competitive in half-a-decade.

Denver Broncos (7-2) AT St. Louis Rams (3-6) – Broncos -10

Prediction: Broncos, 34-17. The Rams are going back to veteran QB Shaun Hill after two months starting rookie Austin Davis. That won’t make much of a difference against Denver, who will continue to prey on lesser opponents until Peyton Manning and Co. inevitably meet Tom Brady and the Patriots in January.

San Francisco 49ers (5-4) AT New York Giants (3-6) – 49ers -4.5

Prediction: 49ers, 23-20. New York hasn’t won in a month and their season rests on the line this week. Tom Coughlin’s career might, as well. If the Giants are to have any hope, they’ll have to run the ball. The return of Rashad Jennings should help. Still, the 49ers are the better team; and even though they’ll be travelling across the country for this one, they’ll still be in fine shape come Sunday night.

Oakland Raiders (0-9) AT San Diego Chargers (5-4) – Chargers -10.5

riverspPrediction: Chargers, 35-21. It’s been a month now since San Diego was everyone’s flavor of the week. Three losses later, and they seem to have been forgotten in the myriad of AFC contenders. I still think that San Diego is talented enough to make noise if they get to the tournament. Tomato cans like Oakland shouldn’t stand in their way. Another blowout on Sunday and the Raiders continue to inch closer to 0-16.

Detroit Lions (7-2) AT Arizona Cardinals (8-1) – Cardinals -1

Prediction: Lions, 20-17. Neither of these two contenders are without flaw. Arizona’s became magnified with Carson Palmer’s season ending torn-ACL. This promises to be a great, defensive battle between two clubs who still draw skepticism from the pundits. It’s a coin flip in my eyes.

New England Patriots (7-2) AT Indianapolis Colts (6-3) – Colts -2.5

Prediction: Patriots, 27-24. The Patriots come into this game underdogs for the second consecutive affair. While Andrew Luck may be having the best season of his career, beating New England’s improving defense will take a Brady-like performance. Speaking of Brady, the Patriots’ veteran QB has put together two months of stellar play. Two more months of vintage Tommy and the Pats should be hosting the AFC Championship Game in January.

Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) AT Tennessee Titans (2-7) – Steelers -6.5

Prediction: Steelers, 27-17. Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t nearly as good as it looked against Baltimore. They’re also not as bad as they appeared in New York. Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to avoid the pass rush has kept him upright for years. He shouldn’t have too much to worry about in Tennessee, where the hapless Titans will look to avoid another mediocre performance in front of their home crowd.

At 6-2 and atop the NFC East, the Philadelphia Eagles and their fans should be riding high midway through the 2014 season. But, that’s certainly not the case.

sanchizeIn the team’s 31-21 victory last Sunday over the Houston Texans, Philadelphia lost their leaders on both offense and defense, possibly for the remainder of the campaign. Nick Foles, who has commanded the team’s high powered attack for over year now, is out 6-8 weeks after cracking his clavicle in the second quarter on a sack by Whitney Mercilus. Later in the game, the heart and soul of Philadelphia’s defense, DeMeco Ryans, was lost for the year with a torn Achilles tendon.

In Foles’ stead, former Jets’ gun slinger Mark Sanchez is expected to step in. The “Sanchize,” as he was known during his time in New York, has never played with an offense as talented and dynamic as Philadelphia’s. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if Philadelphia’s unit doesn’t miss a beat without their starter. With LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Jeremy Maclin, Zach Ertz, etc. all performing capably, Sanchez should be able to merely manage the game and put up points.

The concern comes on defense, where the loss of Ryans exposes what was already a thin crop at middle linebacker. Veteran Casey Matthews is expected to return to the starting lineup, a spot he occupied for 4 games while Mychal Kendricks nursed a calf injury. Matthews isn’t very fast and tackles like your sister. So, his ascension to the starting job is a serious cause for concern. Rookie Marcus Smith II and fellow youngster Emmanuel Acho are also expected to see their playing time increase with Ryans on the mend. All of this only serves to add more pressure to the Eagles’ solid offensive line and Kendricks, who will now be the team’s point-man against the run.

This Monday, Philadelphia will return home for the first time in a month to take on the Carolina Panthers. On paper, this is a matchup of two banged up playoff teams from a year ago. But, the fact of the matter is that this Panthers team is merely Brandon Boykin, Bradley Fletchera shell of its former self. Cam Newton, the #1 pick in 2011, has been more inconsistent than the American electorate. The offseason losses both on the offensive line and at wide receiver are clearly handicapping the Panthers’ QB. While rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin has been stellar, the rest of the offense has stagnated, with Newton having perhaps the worst game of his season last week against New Orleans.

At 3-5, the Panthers’ defense has also been a major disappointment. After emerging as one of the best young defensive units in the game, Carolina has seen their shimmering star go dim. One area that the Eagles should be able to particularly expose is the Panthers’ run defense, which ranks 26th in the NFL. Expect a steady dose of McCoy, Sproles, and Chris Polk against Luke Kuechly’s club.

All in all, Philadelphia comes into this game as a solid favorite, and for good reason. The Eagles have shown an ability to stay in every game they’ve played. On the other hand, the Panthers have only looked worse and worse over the last few weeks. Still, Newton’s talent alone could give Philadelphia, who hasn’t played many scrambling QB this season, fits. I think it will be a tight affair, with a lake Cody Parkey field goal perhaps serving as the difference in an Eagles’ win.

Line: Philadelphia -6
Pick: Philadelphia, 29-26

Now, on to week ten!

Last Week: 6-7 (Best pick: Philadelphia, 26-17)
2014 Season ATS: 62-52

Cleveland Browns (5-3) AT Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1) – Bengals -6.5

Prediction: Bengals, 28-14. Cincinnati’s defense has taken a lot of flack over the last few weeks. But, they’ll get an opportunity to put some separation between themselves and their cross-state rivals with a win on Thursday night. The Browns haven’t won on the road against a division rival in years, a fact that will likely remain true after this weekend despite what has been a banner year for Cleveland, so far.

Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) AT Buffalo Bills (5-3) – Chiefs -2.5

Prediction: Bills, 24-21. I have to give credit where it’s due. Andy Reid has turned Kansas City from an AFC doormat to a threat any given Sunday. The problem is, this is a classic Andy Reid trap game. A week from Sunday, the Chiefs play host to the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, Buffalo is fresh off a bye week and are expected to get RB Fred Jackson back from injury. The winner of this game is in great position to get a wild card spot. The loser will have to climb their way out of a crowded sea of AFC also-rans.

Miami Dolphins (5-3) AT Detroit Lions (6-2) – Lions -3

jerermyhillPrediction: Detroit, 27-24. Two of last year’s most disappointing teams, the Dolphins and Lions were both in line for the playoffs going into the final month of 2013 before falling apart down the stretch. They’ll have another chance to reach January football as the two take each other on in the Motor City. Detroit is coming off of a bye. Meanwhile, Miami squashed San Diego 37-0 at home last week. I’m not in love with either team’s chances of representing their conference in Arizona. But, I’ll take the Lions at home in what should be a solid affair.

Dallas Cowboys (6-3) AT Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) – Cowboys -7

Prediction: Cowboys, 31-17. London is calling and the NFL is answering. America’s Team is heading to the UK for a matchup against the team no one in America cares about. Tony Romo is expected to play despite being one bad hit away from a life alert button. I guess Dallas is feeling the desperation after back-to-back home losses, the latter of which illustrated just how pathetic a QB Brandon Weeden is. Despite that fact, this game has bounce back written all over it for Dallas.

San Francisco 49ers (4-4) AT New Orleans Saints (4-4) – Saints -5.5

Prediction: Saints, 21-17. Classic Jim Harbaugh led drive at the end of the 49ers’ loss to St. Louis last week. Much like the Super Bowl following 2012, San Francisco had 1st and goal inside the 5-yard line and was unable to punch it in. Also like that loss to Baltimore, Frank Gore didn’t touch the ball once inside the red-zone. Now, the veteran RB is questionable for this week’s game in The Big Easy. We’ll see whether or not New Orleans’ home dominance (4-0) continues against one of the best defenses in football. Something tells me that it will, and San Francisco will find themselves in an even deeper hole than anyone could have imagined.

Tennessee Titans (2-6) AT Baltimore Ravens (5-4) – Ravens -10

Prediction: Ravens, 30-21. Tennessee may have a bye week to prepare for a slumping Ravens team. But, they also have rookie QB Zach Mettenberger at QB, who is more proficient with a cell phone camera than he is with a football. This is a classic bounce back affair for Baltimore, who can’t afford another loss while battling in an uber-competitive AFC North.

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) AT New York Jets (1-8) – Steelers -6

bigbenPrediction: Steelers, 38-16. The Jets might be the worst team in the league. Not necessarily based on talent. But, more on drive and the will to win. This is a team that has given up and has no real reason to play for their coach anymore. Michael Vick’s career will be over soon, and he’s just playing out the paycheck at this point. On the other hand, the Steelers have hit their stride and with the performance of their offense the last few weeks, have a real reason to believe that playoff football could return to Heinz Field for the first time in nearly 5-years.

Atlanta Falcons (2-6) AT Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6) – Falcons -3

Prediction: Buccaneers, 20-17. In the stinker of the week, these two NFC South doormats duel in a game that only the sadistic would choose to watch. It’s a matchup of the stoppable force (Atlanta is 0-4 on the road) and the movable object (Tampa is 0-4 at home). One of these teams needs to win. Might as well make it the home team, as Josh McCown returns to the starting QB spot for the Bucs.

Denver Broncos (6-2) AT Oakland Raiders (0-8) – Broncos -12

Prediction: Broncos, 41-20. Nothing like the NFL serving up a nice tomato can matchup for Peyton Manning and the Broncos, who are fresh off their thwacking at the hands of New England. The Raiders gave Seattle quite a fight last week. I wouldn’t expect the same amount of success against a pissed off Denver team. Manning could throw for 5 touchdowns in this one as the Broncos bounce back and keep the soon to be 0-16 Raiders out of the win column.

St. Louis Rams (3-5) AT Arizona Cardinals (7-1) – Cardinals -7.5

Prediction: Cardinals, 20-17. If there’s one thing St. Louis has proven to me this season, it’s that they never go down without a fight. I learned from my mistake last week, picking San Francisco to obliterate the Rams at home. Jeff Fisher has his team coming to play every week and it’s likely what will save his job when all is said and done. On the other side, Arizona believes that it’s going to be the first team to play a Super Bowl at home when Glendale hosts the 49th annual event this February. I don’t know if I’m willing to go that far. But, the odds on favorite for home field advantage can take a big step with a win on Sunday.

New York Giants (3-5) AT Seattle Seahawks (5-3) – Seahawks -9.5

Prediction: Seahawks, 31-21. The Giants’ defense looks worse and worse every week, and it’s not going to get better when they have to travel to Seattle on a short week. It’s going to be a sad ending to Tom Coughlin’s career, as the Giants are probably on their way to no better than a 7-9 season. Meanwhile, Seattle struggled at times last week against Oakland. They’ll need to start picking up their play if they hope to survive a brutal stretch in Nov/Dec that includes Arizona (2x), San Francisco (2x), Philadelphia, and Kansas City.

Chicago Bears (3-5) AT Green Bay Packers (5-3) – Packers -7.5

Prediction: Bears, 31-27. My upset pick of the week sees Chicago keeping their division hopes alive with a big road win in Lambeau. The Bears haven’t looked very mighty this season. But, a bye week and desperation might be just enough to halt Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, who are 3-0 at home this season. Look for Matt Forte to be a huge part of the offense against Green Bay’s 32nd ranked rush defense.