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NFL Week 15 Picks

Three weeks left in the season and the Philadelphia Eagles are in sole possession of first place in the NFC East—and the Dallas Cowboys look like a complete mess. Welcome to Week 15 everyone! Last week, I continued to be dominant on Thursday nights (15-1 on the season) and went 12-4 for the week, lifting the overall total to 133-74. That puts me behind only Chris Carter (134) and KC Joyner (139) over at ESPN.

Oh, and the Jacksonville Jaguars CONTINUE to remain “in the hunt” for a playoff spot.

Let’s pick some games.

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos, Thursday, 8:25pm

Comment of the week goes to Peyton Manning who told reporters who were still trying to pursue the cold-weather-struggles story that they could “shove it where the sun don’t shine.” If the Broncos third 50-point performance of the season wasn’t enough, this week he’ll have the opportunity to go for back-to-back 50-point games against a defense that gives up the fifth most passing yards per game (266.7), and only ranks 28th overall. The only potential problem here is that Denver’s defense has been just as bad this season, giving up the fourth most passing yards (274.3) and is only ranked 25th overall. Expect a shootout, but, contrary to the popular perspective here, I’m a fan of Manning in the cold weather, and at home. Broncos win 45-33

Philadelphia Eagles @ Minnesota Vikings, 1pm

I hate this game for a couple of reasons. 1) The Vikings’ 3-9-1 record can be deceiving. For one, those three wins all came at home and against some interesting—though not completely scary—opponents (Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago), and over their last three games they’ve played some tough games (Green Bay sans-Rodgers, Chicago, and Baltimore), and were in every single one of them—they went 1-1-1 in that stretch, including that B’more game with the ridiculous ending last week. 2) There’s even a slight chance that Adrian Peterson might be able to give it a go, and, despite the way this defense has played over the last month and a half, he scares me. 3) Cordarrelle Patterson. 4) The Tuesday night game is still fresh in my head for some reason. All that aside, this is a team that, with their firepower on offense, the Eagles should be able to handle. Going with my head, heart, and gut on this one. Eagles win 34-17

Washington Redskins @ Atlanta Falcons, 1pm

Both teams suck. RG3-10 might be benched, which could offer a bit of a spark for a team that has 53 men all playing for their jobs moving forward at this point. On the other side, Atlanta has been by and large one of the biggest disappointments this year (topped only by Houston), but they’ll get to face a defense that is equally as bad as they are against the pass—Washington ranks 31st in opposing QB passer rating (101.2) to Atlanta’s 32nd (104.3). No matter what QB gets the start for DC, I just like Atlanta at home in this week’s Toilet Bowl game. Falcons win 20-13

Chicago Bears @ Cleveland Browns, 1pm

As impressive as the Bears looked last week, scoring on every single drive with the exception of their last one when they kneeled the ball, it has to be said that it was against a Dallas defense that has been well below-average this season. This week they’ll travel to Cleveland to take on a Browns team that has been extremely impressive on the defensive side of the ball, giving up just over 320 yards a game, 7th overall (the same can’t be said about the offense, obviously). Don’t look over the fact that it was basically a questionable pass interference call that did them in agains the 10-3 Patriots on the road a week ago. Their defense could easily keep them in this one perhaps even win it. Let’s gamble. Browns win 27-24

Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts, 1pm

This one should help Andrew Luck and the Colts get back on track. Oh, and did anyone notice that at 8-5 and after a loss this week, the Colts managed to lock up the AFC South? Congrats? Colts win 21-10

New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins, 1pm

At 7-6, Miami remains outside of the AFC Wild Card race as a result of a tie breaker with the Baltimore Ravens. They’ve managed to pull themselves back into the conversation, however, thanks to a 5-2 record over their last seven. The Pats have home field advantage throughout in their sights, which could be huge if a rematch against Peyton is in the cards. I’ll take that, and New England’s seven-game winning streak over the Dolphins. Besides, it seems like the Pats have the NFL in their pockets the way their last few have gone. They might not lose again the rest of the way. Pats win 30-21

Seattle Seahawks @ New York Giants, 1pm

I don’t like the idea of Seattle traveling cross country—some of their closest games, that still resulted in wins came out East against the likes of Tampa Bay, Carolina (before people knew they were legit), and Tennessee. Still, I also don’t like the idea of them dropping two in a row. The Giants’ hopes of a playoff berth are fading quickly, and Eli hasn’t been able to shake the turnover bug all season long. None of those things bode well against a defense that ranks 3rd in interceptions (17). Seahawks win 28-24

San Francisco 49ers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1pm

The Tampa Bay story has been an awesome one, but at this point in the season, certain teams are fighting for their playoff lives, and that outweighs whatever it is the Bucs are playing for. 49ers win 30-14

Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonvilles Jaguars, 1pm

I’m sorry, but I’m riding that Jags train. They own the longest winning streak in the AFC (3 games) and STILL have a chance at making the playoffs. Keep it going, Gus! Jags win 24-23

Kansas City Chiefs @ Oakland Raiders, 4:05pm

It’s a hell of an end to the season for the Oakland Raiders, having to take on all three of their AFC West foes—all of whom have their sights set on the playoffs. It starts this week with a home game against the Chiefs who were able to snap their three-game skid with a road win against the hapless Skins. Oakland has been a team that has shown fight this year—beating the Steelers at home, holding their own against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving—but they’ve also shown how easily they can fold—the 7TD game they gave up to Foles, and a loss to the Jets, yes, those Jets. A loss in their last three shows zero improvement over last years 4-12 record. Chiefs win 23-14

New York Jets @ Carolina Panthers, 4:05pm

Sorry, but there’s no way that Geno Smith gets out of this game, against a PO’d Panthers D coming off of a humbling loss, with his life let alone a W. Panthers win 30-13

Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys, 4:25pm

With the news that Aaron Rodgers is unlikely to play on Sunday, this one gets a bit more difficult to pick. My heart wants the Packers to pull this one out so the Eagles have the opportunity to go up 2 games on Dallas with two weeks remaining. My head tells me that they’ll still have a shot, because Dallas’s defense has been exceptionally horrendous over the last six games (32.2 pts and 465.3 yds/g), but that Matt Flynn will struggle to keep pace with Tony Romo. I’m gonna chalk it up to this: Momentum—something I’ve openly said I’m not a huge believer in. The Dallas D gave up points in every single Bears’ offensive possession last week, and Matt Flynn showed his ability to orchestrate a 4th quarter comeback and game-winning drive. (Hey, I gotta make up games somewhere here.) Packers win 27-26

Arizona Cardinals @ Tennessee Titans, 4:25pm

Same deal as with the Niners and Bucs game above. One team still has a fleeting hope of making the postseason. The other is on the outside looking in. It’d be a huge win, mentally, for the Titans, but the Cards have too much on the line to let this one fall through their fingers, especially if the ageless wonder—John Abraham, who was awarded NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors—has something to say about it. Cards win 28-21

New Orleans Saints @ St. Louis Rams, 4:25pm

Psshhhh. Who dat? Saints win 42-17

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:25pm

The Steelers were a pinky toe away from an absolutely INCREDIBLE finish against the Miami Dolphins last week. Instead, they’re playoff hopes are quickly fading. Cincy, on the flip side, appears to be surging on the strength of their defense and two 40-point outbursts in the last three weeks. Interesting historical head-to-head stat though: Pittsburgh hasn’t lost more than two in a row to the Bengals in over 20 years (they dropped six straight from 1988-90), and they’ve only lost at home to Cincy twice in the last 7 years. I’ll take those odds. Steelers win 23-21

Baltimore Ravens @ Detroit Lions, Monday, 8:30pm

Both of these teams are probably overjoyed to be playing in the cozy confines of a dome after some rough weather last week, which saw the Lions prolific offense only manage to put up 6 points, while the Ravens struggled all day and then exploded for three touchdowns in the final two minutes (one of those came of special teams). Struggling late in games has been a theme all season long for both of these squads though—the Ravens have had 10 of their 13 contests have been decided by one possession (they’re 5-5 in those games), while the Lions have dropped three of their last four, but held leads in the fourth quarter in those three losses. These teams could easily be wrapping up their divisions or be comfortably in the playoff picture by now. Instead, they’re both fighting for their playoff lives, which makes this Monday night game a fantastic one to say the least. For me, this one’s going to come down to who can be more successful at creating the Big Play, and, conversely, not giving up the Big Play. To the latter point, both teams struggle at stopping the homerun ball—Baltimore and Detroit rank 32nd and 31st respectively at 40+ yard plays allowed (16 and 14). Meanwhile, Detroit (10) trails Baltimore (13) in 40+ yard plays. I guess that makes it a coin flip, but I think I like Megatron in a dome more than Jacoby Jones—plus Reggie Bush should be back for this one. Lions win 35-30

NFL Week 14 Picks

If games were only played on Thursdays, I might be nearly perfect in picking games this year. The clean sweep on Turkey Day lifted my 14-1. Going 11-5 in week 13 raised the overall to 121-70, tied for 4th among the experts at ESPN. My fantasy football team was officially eliminated from the playoffs last week, so here’s to having more time to make a real run at a perfect week of picks.

Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday, 8:25pm

Houston took advantage of a weak first half from the Patriots to build a nice lead, but they couldn’t overcome the cheaters in the second half… Sarcasm, clearly. No team should have to cheat to be able to make the defensive adjustments to stop the Texans offense (force Case Keenum to throw the ball)  or defense (run it down their throats)—even Jacksonville. Speaking of the Jags, how hot have they been over these last four games? In the four weeks since their bye, Jax is 3-1—all three wins came on the road—and they’re averaging 22 points per game, compared to the 10.8 they were averaging through the first eight weeks. Gus Bradley has his team gelling at just the right (wrong?) time. Jags win 21-16

Detroit Lions @ Philadelphia Eagles, 1pm

Calvin Johnson may or may not run wild on this defense, but the difference in this one is going to be whether or not Matthew Stafford can stop turning the ball over. His 27 TDs this year have him on pace to come close to a career high, but the 8 picks over the last four games (including 4 against the Bucs a couple Sundays ago). A big part of the Eagles’ four-game winning streak has been the defense’s ability to create turnovers—nine in those four games—and the fact that no team has scored more than 21 points against them since the Week 4 debacle at Denver. Nick Foles has yet another opportunity to step up in a big moment and further solidify his future in Philly, and he’ll have an opportunity to pad those stats a little more—he’ll likely see a greater workload, thanks to the Lions’ 3rd ranked rush D, compared to their 26th ranked pass D. Eagles win 33-23

Indianapolis Colts @ Cincinnati Bengals, 1pm

Both of these teams have been incredibly up and down over the last month and a half, and you never really know which group is going to show up on Sunday. For the Colts, a lot of that has to do (unfortunately) with the fact that Andrew Luck’s top target was lost for the season; for Cincy, it’s been the erratic play of Andy Dalton. The most consistent unit for either team has been the Bengals defense which ranks sixth overall, holding teams to just under 315 yards per game, and fifth overall with 18 pts per game. That’s enough for me in this one. Bengals win 26-23

Atlanta Falcons @ Green Bay Packers, 1pm

If Rodgers is back (he hasn’t been cleared to return yet) this game is a lock. With him on the sidelines and Matt Flynn getting another full week of practice with the first team under his belt, it’s a loosely double-knotted shoelace. Both of these defenses have been putrid for the better part of the season and have really let both teams down. If Flynn can sure up the turnovers, he should have an easier time against this Atlanta defense that has given up the 2nd most passing TDs (24) this year. Packers win 27-24

Cleveland Browns @ New England Patriots, 1pm

With Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell suffering from head injuries, it’ll be either Alex Tanney (who hasn’t played a single snap of professional football during the regular season) or Caleb Hanie (who hasn’t played a single snap of professional football since 2011). Good luck with that. Pats win 35-12

Oakland Raiders @ New York Jets, 1pm

You’ve gotta give Matt McGloin some credit, don’t you? He’s at least kept the Raiders competitive in his three starts—they’ve won one, and have been within a single possession of beating both the Cowboys and Titans. This week he’ll get to play a little closer to his real home, against a Jets team that is in serious shambles. Given the trip for Oakland, I’d call this a coin flip, but the coin is weighted a little heavier to the road team. Raiders win 24-21

Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1pm

We’ve had a lot of former players going back to visit their old teams this year (see: Ed Reed, twice; Peyton Manning; Wes Welker). Now Mike Wallace gets to go back to Pittsburgh. Each team’s strength will make this a far more entertaining watch than it probably should be—Miami ranks ninth against the pass while the Steelers have the eighth-ranked passing attack. If Ben is able to stay upright long enough in this one, Pittsburgh should be able to take care of business at home. Steelers win 24-10

Buffalo Bills @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1pm

Despite the tough loss at Carolina last week, I’m absolutely buying into the Greg Schiano juice. His team is buying in as well, and that’s what has led to this mini turnaround. Simply put, though, I’m not a fan of the Bills on the road. In five road contests this year, Buffalo is getting outscored 28.6-18.8, and that’s against teams like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, the Jets, and Miami (New Orleans is the fifth team, but that’s a bit of an outlier. Bucs win 28-20

Kansas City Chiefs @ Washington Redskins, 1pm

Reid gets to face a team that he went 17-11 against as the Eagles head coach, and he’ll do so with a Chiefs team that is desperately searching for a win after dropping their last three. Shouldn’t be a problem against a Skins team that has just three wins this season, and that will be with whatever draft pick they would’ve had in the first round next summer. L.O.L. Chiefs win 23-19

Minnesota Vikings @ Baltimore Ravens, 1pm

This is difficult one to pick, in my opinion. After a pretty dreadful start, the Vikings have managed to scrap together a 2-1-1 record in their last four (granted they were about a minute away from being 1-1-2). A lot of that has to do with their ability to find ways to get the ball into Corderrelle Patterson’s hands, and number 28 in the backfield. The Ravens have done a fairly decent job stopping the run this year, though—they rank 6th giving up just over 100 yards per game. Whatever side can hold their ground in that portion of the game should come out on top. Given the Vikings ineptitude on the road (0-5-1) and the Ravens dominance at home (5-1), I’ll lean in favor of the slightly darker purple team. Ravens win 27-20

Tennessee Titans @ Denver Broncos, 4:05pm

There’s no use trying to find a way that the Titans can actually walk out of Denver with a W on Sunday—they just aren’t going to do it. The Tennessee/Houston franchise hasn’t won at Mile High since the mid 1980’s, and they’ll be facing a quarterback who beat them 13 times in 18 career meetings when he was playing for a team in their division. Oh, and forget about all of that cold-weather talk. Peyton’s back to form. It all adds up to a a win for the home team. Broncos win 41-17

St. Louis Rams @ Arizona Cardinals, 4:25pm

It’s a brutal stretch for the Rams as 2013 winds down and they’re faced with another year watching the playoffs at home—three of their final four are against teams with winning records and playoff aspirations, including a week 17 trip to Seattle (though the Seahawks may be resting guys by then). It starts this week in Arizona against a Cardinals team that dominates at home (5-1), holding teams to just 18 points in six games (15 pts/g in their 5 wins). Defense has been the key to their midseason surge and they’ll be looking to bounce back from a tough road loss in Philly last week [:-)]. Cards win 24-17

New York Giants @ San Diego Chargers, 4:25pm

Talk about a clunker for the Chargers last week. Not how you want to go about keeping pace, or separating yourself from the pack, in the AFC playoff race. One thing in their favor, though, they get another week at home, and they get to face a team that is travelling cross-country to face them for a change. AND! That team is the New York Giants, whose quarterback is Eli Manning—the guy that snubbed the team in the 2004 NFL Draft and demanded they trade him. Sure, Eli has his two Super Bowl rings, but he has yet to beat the Chargers in two career meetings, including a 45-23 loss the season after the draft-then-trade incident. Besides all that, I just can’t see myself picking the Giants D over Philip Rivers. Chargers win 34-24

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers, 4:25pm

Aside from their Week 1 win over the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers haven’t shown the ability to step up in a big game this season—losses at Seattle, at New Orleans and at home against the Panthers and Indy soil an otherwise impressive 8-4 record. This week they get an opportunity to exact a little revenge against an NFC West foe. I’m sure fans will be pumped for this one, but they won’t have the same kind of impact the 12th man does. If San Fran has a chance, it’s going to come in the running game—Seattle’s “weakness” on defense would be their 13th ranked rush D, which gives up just over 107 yards per game. Kaepernick has shown slight improvement in the passing game over the last couple weeks, but St. Louis and Washington don’t own the number-one ranked passing defense. When it comes down to it, I just think the Seahawks D is going to own the game. Seahawks win 28-14

Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints, 8:25pm

The Flex Game! This should make for incredible football, but I’ve gotta say, I’m nervous about which Saints defense is going to show up for this one. I know it’s nearly impossible to get a win in Seattle, but to give up 34 points? And what about the 26 they gave up in a loss to the Jets earlier this month? That was a road loss as well, but c’mon. It was the Jets! Rob Ryan’s done well, but you can’t overlook the fact that he’s still utilizing the men who made up a historically bad defense just a season ago. Now they’ll have to stop a Panthers offense that has gone for 30+ five times this year, and their defense, which is holding teams to a league-low 13.1 points per game. It’s in the Superdome, which is a beast in and of itself, but don’t be surprised when this turns out to be much closer than many are predicting. Panthers win 31-28

Dallas Cowboys @ Chicago Bears, Monday, 8:30pm

It’s December, which can only mean one thing: An epic Cowboys collapse is right around the corner. They’ll get their first opportunity to fall flat on their faces in a road matchup against the Chicago Bears. Both teams have truly struggled on the defensive side of the ball of late, and both offenses are just sort of meh. What I do like for Dallas (threw up in my mouth a little after typing that) is that they come into this with a bit of momentum, winning two straight. What I don’t like is that they tend to collapse in big road games (see: Kansas City Week 2, San Diego Week 4, Detroit Week 8, and New Orleans Week 10—and there was that near collapse at New York two weeks ago). This game has major playoff implications, which makes it a big game. I expect them to be typical Dallas-in-December in this one. Bears win 17-13

NFL Week 13 Picks

Happy Thanksgiving, you’s guys! One thing I am absolutely thankful for is that Week 12 is behind us, because it was an incredibly rough one, plain and simple. Between the tie that stole a win and the 24 point comeback in New England, it was a rough ride to a 6-7 record. Thankfully, though, things didn’t go much better in Bristol. The overall stands at 110-65.

But, onward and upward we go.

Enjoy the multiple days filled with football, family, and food this week!

Byes this week: NONE! We’re done with that.

Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions, Thursday, 12:30pm

Short weeks are rough on any team, but they’re especially rough on teams that are coming off of a tie or a devastating loss to an opponent that was 6 games under .500. That’s the situation both the Pack and Lions face coming into this one. Unfortunately for Green Bay, though, the short rest means there’s a “slim to none” chance that Aaron Rodgers will be ready to come back. Matthew Stafford essentially let Mike Glennon out duel him on Sunday—I can’t see him putting together back to back performances like that, especially in an all-too-important divisional showdown. Lions win 34-23

Oakland Raiders @ Dallas Cowboys, Thursday, 4:30pm

Matt McGloin grew up (presumably) as an Eagles fan. He gets an opportunity to take down a team that he (presumably) grew up hating with an intense passion. As much as I’ll be pulling for him to do just that, the likelihood of it actually happening is—to borrow from Mike McCarthy for the second time in two game previews—slim to none. Dallas’s defense hasn’t done them any favors this year, which could make this an interesting game, but (and I can’t believe I’m about to say this) the clutchness of Tony Romo in the fourth quarter hasn’t gone unnoticed this year. He should be able to pick apart the league’s 25th ranked passing attack, which has just seven picks on the season. Cowboys win 28-20

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens, Thursday, 8:30pm

After an exceptionally rough 0-4 start, the Steelers have crawled their way back into the mix in the AFC, winning five of their last seven. If they’re hot streak continues, they could find themselves with a (knock on wood, Yinzers) home playoff game in January. Any hope of that happening relies, in part, on how they do this Thanksgiving in Baltimore. The Ravens find themselves in almost exactly the same position. Basically, this will end up as the game of the night on Thursday. It might be cliche when talking about the AFC North, but I really believe that the team that can establish the run in this one is going to be the team that comes away with the W. Baltimore has shown the ability to do that against tough defenses, when they need to. They’re also a tough team to beat at home. Ravens win 17-14

Arizona Cardinals @ Philadelphia Eagles, 1pm

The Eagles are coming off of a bye and officially have a brand new starting quarterback. This is Nick Foles’ ship to run, now, and if the past few weeks are any indication, it should be sailing rather high. The Cardinals come in having put together an impressive run over the course of the past month—or so say the sports media folk. The road wins have been hard to come by for Carson Palmer and the Cards—their two road wins came against the Jaguars and the Bucs, and both of those wins were not really in impressive fashion. The Eagles have hit their groove at the right time, and I like them to turn that 10-game home losing streak into a 2 game winning streak. Eagles win 34-21

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Cleveland Browns, 1pm

Don’t look now, but the Jags are poised to make a run. Toss a coin on this one. (That’s what I did—except a coin wasn’t handy, so I used a flip flop.) Browns win 13-10

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts, 1pm

This year’s Colts team can be broken down into two era’s: BWI and AWI—Before Wayne’s Injury and After Wayne’s Injury. Prior to going down for the season in Indy’s incredible win over then-unbeaten Denver, the Colts were 5-2 and in the driver’s seat in the AFC South. They still are the lead dog in the division, but in the AWI era, they look like a completely different team and have made things awfully interesting. Tennessee gets a chance for revenge after a tough loss a couple of Thursday nights ago and look poised to do so—Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown that he’s more than capable at the quarterback position, and has really stepped up to the plate in Jake Locker’s multiple absences this season. Titans win 24-23

Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings, 1pm

Someone has got to step up in the NFC North and pretend to want to win this division at some point, right? While on paper the Bears should have no problem in this one, there’s one aspect that should be a major concern for Chi-town fans (and it almost cost them in that first game at home against the Vikings this year)—they’re Chicago’s defense is a far cry from the defenses we’ve come to know over the years, and their 31st-ranked rush-D is probably going to struggle mightily against one of the most prolific runners in the game.  Let’s not forget that, outside of their tie against the Packers, this Vikings team did their job against the Redskins, had the Cowboys on the ropes (on the road), and they’ve shored up their turnover problems. The Bears should be on alert heading into this one. Vikings win 28-26

Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets, 1pm

Miami has been great at home this season, and that showed against a surging Panthers team that they had on the ropes last week. Going on the road has been a bit of a struggle, but this week should be a different story. They travel to New York to take on a Jets team that is officially a complete mess. In his last six games, Geno Smith has just 1 passing TD and 10 INTs. That’s not good. Miami pass rush has stepped it’s game up of late, which should mean more struggles for Smith. On the other side of the ball, Ryan Tannehill has been sort of meh, but he’s doing enough to keep the Dolphins in games and give them a shot at winning. Dolphins win 17-13

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers, 1pm

The guys in Tampa have really turned a corner after their 0-8 start (something I’m sure fans hoping for a high draft pick aren’t too pleased about). The road doesn’t get any easier for them, though, as a date with the red hot Panthers is upon them this week. The last time that these two teams hooked up, the Bucs were still getting acclimated to Greg Schiano’s way of doing things, and ever since that matchup they have been a different team—leading a game in Seattle 24-0 before an OT loss, followed by three straight wins. I expect more fight from the Bucs in this one, but the Panthers D has been nothing short of stifling in every aspect of the game. This one is less of a trap than last week’s game against the Dolphins, but Carolina better not look at this one lightly. Panthers win 30-23

New England Patriots @ Houston Texans, 1pm

Um. Yeah. About this. Pats win 42-16

Atlanta Falcons @ Buffalo Bills, 4:05pm

Is anyone actually going to watch this one? Two teams that are fighting to stay slightly above terrible. This is almost on the level of Jacksonville and Cleveland but not quite coin-flipable. Atlanta has struggled all season long on defense, especially against the run—Buffalo boasts the 7th best rushing attack in the league. Atlanta has also struggled all season, establishing their own rushing attack, which has meant that Matty Ice has had to carry the team—Buffalo actually has a decent pass defense (12th in the NFL, 229 yds per game), and how they perform could be the difference in this one. Possibly without tight end Tony Gonzalez, it’s really hard to side with Atlanta in this one. Bills win 27-24

St. Louis Rams @ San Francisco 49ers, 4:05pm

I absolutely LOVE what the Rams have done over the last two games—80 pts, just shy of 800 yards of total offense, and they’ve only committed 1 turnover while forcing 8—however, I don’t LOVE who they’ve done it against (a struggling Indy team and the schizophrenic Chicago Bears). This week is their first truly tough test over this recent stretch of success—a road matchup, within their division, and against a tough defense. The question for the 49ers will be how they handle the rookie Tavon Austin, who has been the key to St. Louis’s recent success. Their record over the last three games aside, they’ve really been able to contain opposing offenses that have been explosive over the course of the season. 49ers win 27-17

Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs, 4:25pm

It seems no one’s safe these days. Every team has flaws, and they’ve been exposed in Kansas City and Denver. Both teams come in limping—Kansas City, losers of two straight, and the Broncos coming off of an epic collapse in Foxboro. Peyton Manning isn’t completely healthy, and that’s obvious. How that effects him in this one could be the difference Kansas City finally showed their ability to put up points, but their defense, which has been tops in the league all season long, has put up two dud’s of performances in the past week. I expect them to play with a huge chip on their shoulder in this one. I said weeks ago that I see these teams splitting the season series, which is why I feel I need to stick to my word and go with the home team here. Chiefs win 31-28

Cincinnati Bengals @ San Diego Chargers, 4:25pm

Don’t look now, but the Chargers are, well, charging. After a HUGE (I’m ALL into the all-caps thing right NOW) road win against a division rival, they find themselves back in the hunt for the final wild card spot in the AFC. This week they get to host a Bengals team coming off of a bye, but one that is licking a few wounds. Andy Dalton has not played well over the past three games, falling apart in two overtimes, and failing to get a real stranglehold on a weak AFC North division. The momentum of these teams is going in completely opposite directions right now. Chargers win 35-26

New York Giants @ Washington Redskins, 8:25pm

Another chance for Washington to look like a complete disaster of a team in prime time! New York will be looking to bounce back from a tough loss against the Cowboys, where their comeback bid fell just short. No matter how you sugar coat it, things are not right in DC. RGIII, the coaches, the offense, the defense, no one is on the same page, and it shows. Beyond the 3-8 record, in their last game against the 49ers, the Skins put up just 6 points and accumulated just 30 yards of offense in the second half. The defense has been equally as terribly—30.7 pts per game (31st), 382.1 yds per game (28th), 101.7 QBR against (30th), and 15 rush TDs against (32nd), among other pathetic stats. Oh, and they don’t get to hold on to whatever draft pick they would’ve had this spring, thanks to the trade to get RGIII (who, by the way, has thrown an interception in 9 of 11 games this season, 11 total). How’s all that working out? Giants win 24-20

New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks, Monday, 8:30pm

This is almost undoubtedly a preview of the NFC championship game in a couple months. And just a quick reminder about what happened the last time these two teams met:

The run that caused an earthquake. It’s incredibly tough to win in Seattle. If anyone can do it, it’d be the Saints, but I don’t know how anyone can run a successful offense in that kind of environment. It’s easily the game of the week, and one that I look forward to watching in its entirety. It all comes down to who holds their ground between the Saints offense and the Seattle defense. Seahawks win 34-31

NFL Week 12 Picks

What a week of football. Unbeatens no longer exist. A former totally-defeated is now on a winning streak. The Eagles are the outright leaders in the NFC East (and they get to sit at home for a week, where nothing bad can happen). I took some chances and still went 11-4 and improved the overall record to 104-58—solidly in 4th out of the 13 ESPN experts. Let’s do it again.

Week 12 byes: Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Seattle, and Buffalo

New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons, Thursday, 8:25pm

You’ve gotta figure the Falcons have about hit rock bottom here, right? Things haven’t looked much worse than they did against the once 0-8 Bucs. Unfortunately, they’re looking ahead to a divisional showdown against a New Orleans Saints team that is starting pacing the NFC South, and will look to stay a game up on the Panthers at Atlanta’s expense. The lack of a run game has killed Atlanta this year, and trying to stop Drew Brees has never been easy for the Falcons D (he averages 304 yds and 2 TDs per game). Saints win 34-17

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns, 1pm

The swirling trade rumors appear to have only improved the play of Big Ben. He’ll get another shot at improving his stock this week against a Cleveland Browns team that he’s 15-1 against in his career. The Jason Campbell thing, again, hasn’t really worked out so well for the Browns—he’s had to throw the ball a lot thanks to trailing in games but hasn’t seen much success. Steelers win 16-14

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Detroit Lions, 1pm

It’s been a nice run for the Bucs, rattling off two straight after dropping the first eight this year. Unfortunately for them, their reward for securing their first winning streak of the year is a trip to Detroit to take on a Lions team that is going to be looking to make a statement after a tough road loss in Pittsburgh. Not much analysis needed here—Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson far outweigh Mike Glennon and Vincent Jackson. I’ll be keeping my eye on Bobby Rainey in this one, though—another 30pt fantasy performance would be much appreciated. Lions win 30-21

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers, 1pm

Despite a 3 INT performance against the New York Giants, Packers coach Mike McCarthy went ahead and named 3rd string quarterback Scott Tolzien the starter for this week’s game against the Vikings. Tolzien showed he has the ability to stretch the field against the Giants, and will likely see a lot more green to work with against a Vikings defense that allows 280 yds (29th) per game, has 23 TDs against (32nd), and has a 100.4 quarterback rating against (29th). Packers win 28-24

San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs, 1pm

Usually a team’s by week is seen as rejuvenating, a time to rest and recover and get ready for the rest of the season. That hasn’t been the case for the Chargers who haven’t won any of their three games since their bye. And this week they get to travel to Kansas City to take on a Chiefs team that is going to be focusing on getting back to their game on defense. Another subplot to this is the fact that San Diego will have gone to-and-from Miami and back out to Kansas City all in a week’s time. That’s almost 9,000 miles on the road. No way that—on top of the other three east coast trips—isn’t weighing on them. Chiefs win 24-17

Chicago Bears @ St. Louis Cardinals, 1pm

Chicago survived tornado warnings and a late Ravens rally despite being without one of its leading defenders. St. Louis, meanwhile, sat at home and had an extra week to bask in their 38-8 drubbing of the Colts. Which one of each of these teams shows up appears to be week-to-week question, so I feel comfortable calling this one a coin flip, even though the Bears are the much stronger team on paper. It’s tempting to go with the Rams at home coming off the bye, but the work of #McClown can’t be ignored—he’s statistically performed better in the games that he’s come off the bench to replace Cutler (he’s a combined 20/29 with 266 yds, 2 TDs and 0 INTs—a 121 passer rating), but the Bears are 2-0 in his the games he’s started. Bears win 26-21

Carolina Panthers @ Miami Dolphins, 1pm

Miami is a sneaky good team at home this year—they’ve knocked off the Chargers, Bengals, and Falcons (when they were a healthy team), and gave the Ravens and Bills a tough showing—so don’t expect Carolina to come in and walk all over them, especially with a short week to prepare and having to come down from the emotional high that goes along with knocking off the evil empire. Still, the Dolphins offense, which ranks 31st overall with 308 yds/game, hasn’t seen anything quite like the Panthers defense, which comes in at number-3 overall. It may be a close one, but expect that defense to do just enough—and for Cam and the offense to keep doing their thing. Panthers win 28-23

New York Jets @ Baltimore Ravens, 1pm

The Jets are officially one giant mess of a team. Their defense, which leads the league in stopping the run, and ranks eighth overall, gave up 37 points to the Bills… Geno Smith looked lost. But then again, they’ve been, literally, a roller coaster team this year, alternating wins and losses on a consistent basis. That may continue if that run defense can contain Ray Rice and force Flacco to try and move the ball through the air—which he’s really not that great at, despite being so grossly overpaid. Don’t call it an upset. Jets win 14-10

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans, 1pm

We’ll call this the Number One Overall Pick Bowl. And, so as to not waste too many words on this and give myself enough time to change my mind, I’m going to do the unthinkable. Jags win 9-3

Tennessee Titans @ Oakland Raiders, 4:05pm

Matt McGloin looked awfully impressive in his NFL debut, and is getting some “belated revenge” on Terrell Pryor who caused quite the ruckus for the rest of the QB class that came out of high school that same year when he took forever to make up his mind about where to go (including McGloin). Maybe that was part of the motivation behind McGloin’s beginner’s luck, but whatever it was, it worked. Whether that will carry over a Titans team that ranks 7th against the pass is yet to be seen. If Ryan Fitzpatrick can put together a whole game that looked the his first half against the Colts last Thursday, he may actually be able to win his first start of 2013. Titans win 21-14

Indianapolis Colts @ Arizona Cardinals, 4:05pm

Ever since their improbably upset over the Peyton Manning and the Broncos, the Colts have struggled to put together a complete 60-minute performance. They’ll try to get back on track against a Cardinals team that has taken advantage of a weak portion of their schedule and built themselves a nice three-game winning streak. The Colts won’t have much luck running the ball against a team that gives up just 81.4 yards per game on the ground (2nd overall), but they haven’t really been able to lean on that portion of their game anyway. I think it’s about time that they snapped out of their little funk. Colts win 32-26

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants, 4:25pm

I’m sure Jason Garrett preached fundamentals to his team during the bye week—they’ve looked completely vulnerable during their last 3 games, going 1-2 with their only win coming against the Vikings (at home) and only after a late, late, late comeback, and their most recent game saw them take a proverbial uppercut to the jaw against the Saints. New York, on the other hand, has clawed their way back into the division on the strength of outstanding defensive performances and just enough good offense that has committed just few enough mistakes to still win games.  These appear to be teams heading in complete opposite directions, and I’d love for the G-Men to help the Birds maintain the outright lead in the division for at least another week. Giants win 34-22

Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots, 8:25pm

The Pats have lost back-to-back games just twice in the last three years. They look to avoid making it three times when they host Manning, Welker, and the Broncos on Sunday night. Brady and Manning have produced some spectacular moments over the years, and this should blend right into the bunch. The Pats feel like they’ve been screwed out of three losses this year and will be playing with a little extra fire. Manning is Manning. And Wes Welker will be looking to exact revenge on his former employer. All of this adds up to one hell of a show. While they haven’t necessarily been great, Denver’s D has done just enough 99 percent of the time this season, and Sunday night should be no different against a Pats offense that is playing green talent at the skill positions. Broncos win 40-35

San Francisco 49ers @ Washington Redskins, Monday, 8:30pm

How and why is this the Monday night game? Did someone think Kaepernick vs. RGIII would be must-see-TV? Both have sucked it up this year. Did someone expect both teams to be contending at this point in the season? Only one kind of is. I just don’t understand it, especially when there were much more appealing options on the schedule (DAL-NYG? DEN-NE? Hell, PGH-CLE?) Anyhoo. The Redskins are playing for pride here in Week 12. The Niners will actually be looking for a big road win to stay in the conversation in the NFC West, and that seems like something that will bring about a little more urgency. Niners win 27-20

NFL Week 11 Picks

Holy Jags and Bucs… One was a game that I didn’t care about, the other took advantage of a starting quarterback going down, and now both have removed themselves from the ranks of the totally beaten. They also prevented me from having my best week of the season. Still 10-4 ain’t too shabby. The overall bumps up to 93-54, in line with Mike Golic, Chris Carter, and Merrill Hoge over at ESPN.

On to Week 11.

Your byes: Dallas, and St. Louis.

Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans, Thursday, 8:25pm

For anyone that called the complete collapse against the Rams at Lucas Oil, more power to you. Every team is apt to have a game or two like that each year, and I doubt the Colts are a team that will let that happen twice in a row. Luck-ily (hehe) for them, they get a favorable matchup as they look to bounce back. Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the call again while Locker remains out the rest of the season. The Titans have faired well against the pass this year (8th overall, 211.3 yds/game) but haven’t faced a formidable foe like Luck. Colts win 27-23

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles, 1pm

Only one team in the NFC East has rattled off three W’s in a row, and it’s not the Cowboys. The Eagles look to join the G-men as winners of three straight when they host the Skins on Sunday. They’ll also look to snap their dubious streak of 10 straight home losses. The Eagles and Skins both are built similarly, believe it or not. They excel in the run game (1st and 3rd), and are mediocre at stopping the run (14th an 18th); both have high-level passing attacks (9th and 10th), but can’t stop the pass for shit (31st and 26th). Homerism, my gut, and the way Nick Foles has stepped it up make me believe the Birds can grab the outright lead in the division. Eagles win 34-27

New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills, 1pm

Buffalo has been able to be effective with their run game—it ranks 7th in the league with 140.7 yards per game. The problem is, they haven’t been able to sustain a lead in recent weeks which means they’ve been relying more on Jeff Tuel, Thad Lewis, and E.J. Manuel to try and sling their way back into games, which hasn’t gone so well. The Jets, meanwhile, have the best rushing defense in the league (73.8 yards per game), which should be enough to steal one on the road. Jets win 24-21

Baltimore Ravens @ Chicago Bears, 1pm

I don’t like this one for the Bears. They’re without Jay Cutler for the game (though #McClown has stepped up well in his absence), but the more impactful injury is the one suffered by All-Pro cornerback Charles Tillman. The Bears D has struggled mightily the season, and this is almost like the knockout punch. The Ravens blew their late lead on a miracle Hail Mary against the Bengals, but were able to overcome that in OT. Baltimore struggles on the road, though, which is the only reason I’m going this way. Bears win 21-20

Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals, 1pm

Cleveland had an extra week to enjoy their impressive home win against the Ravens, and Jason Campbell had an extra week to get acclimated to the Browns’ system. Cincy, on the other hand, has lost two heartbreaking overtime games in the last two games, with the most recent coming after a miraculous last second Hail Mary by Andy Dalton. If they can avoid going the extra session in this one, they should be able to hold off a divisional opponent that they’ve been able to hold serve against at home since 2008. Bengals win 23-14

Detroit Lions @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1pm

This should be a great watch for those in the Steel City. Pittsburgh has always boasted a great defense, especially against the pass, and this year is no different–they’re 4th overall, allowing just over 201 yards per game through the air. They’ll have their toughest test yet, though, when they play host to the Detroit Lions who come in with the leagues 3rd ranked passing offense (306.9 yards per game). The all-time record in this one is 14-15-1 in favor of the Steelers, with the most recent Lions non-loss in Pittsburgh coming way back in 1959, when the teams tied—before that, they pulled out a 31-28 win in 1955. Megatron and Stafford should be able to balance this one out. Lions win 31-20

Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1pm

Call me crazy, but with all of the injuries that have completely decimated this Falcons offense, and how poorly they’ve played on defense (25th overall, 378.8 yards per game, and 28 pts per game) the door is wide open for the Bucs to go on their own little winning streak. They’ll have to find a way to slow Matt Ryan and the 6th ranked passing attack down, though it hasn’t looked that threatening in the last few weeks. Bucs win 20-17

Arizona Cardinals @ Jacksonville Jaguars, 1pm

The Jags did the unthinkable last week and actually won a game. They did so, though, against a team that lost its starting quarterback for the second (and final) time this year. Unless something similar happens to Carson Palmer, the football world should get back to normal. Cardinals win 34-19

Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans, 1pm

Two teams with two unresolved quarterback situations. Is Terrell Pryor the QB of the future in Oakland? (Maybe for the next few weeks if the knee is healthy enough, but doubtful beyond that.) Why won’t Gary Kubiak put the keys to his offense in the hands of Case Keenum? And what’s all this mean for Schaub’s future? (No clue on either here.) Good luck to both teams in their quests to sort all that out. Defense will be the name of the game, here, and Houston’s is by far the more dominant unit. This should end a few months of hell for Texans fans (at least for a week). Texans win 26-23

San Diego Chargers @ Miami Dolphins, 4:05pm

Holy hell, another cross county trip for this Chargers team… The schedule makers were not nice this year. At least they’ve had probably the easiest East Coast schedule imaginable, and have favored nicely against it. This one’s no different as they travel to take on a Miami team that has for too many distractions, as evidenced by their loss to the previously-winless Bucs. Chargers win 32-13

San Francisco 49ers @ New Orleans Saints, 4:25pm

The 49ers offense had been on a roll, but in almost no way is their success attributable to Colin Kaepernick’s abilities as a quarterback. That was exploited last week against a Panthers defense that is among the elite units in the game. This week they travel back to the scene of their failed comeback attempt in Super Bowl XLVII. There’s no way an offense so predicated on the run will be able to keep pace with a high-powered offense like the Saint, who, by the way, are nearly unbeatable in the Superdome. Saints win 38-28

Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants, 4:25pm

This whole not having Aaron Rodgers thing is really going to bury the Pack. The Scott Tolzien era got off to kind of a rocky start, and Green Bay will stick with him for at least another week as Matt Flynn gets reacclimated with their offense. They travel to New York at a most inopportune time, as the G-men have been able to find their groove on defense—four INTs, four fumble recoveries, a boatload of sacks, and their first defensive touchdown all came in the last three weeks. Those great stats should continue against a third-string/patchwork offense. Giants win 26-20

Minnesota Vikings @ Seattle Seahawks, 4:25pm

Great win last week against the Redskins at home for the Vikings. But that was the Redskins, at home. This one is not the Redskins at home. Seahawks win 28-14

Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos, 8:25pm

Woah boy. The Chiefs are gearing up for an incredible three-week stretch that seems them square off against the Broncos twice and New England. Their 9-0 record, and standing as an elite team in the game this year, are going to be put to the test. Their defense is capable of slowing down the best offenses, but they have yet to see one quite like Denver’s. On the flip, Denver hasn’t really seen a defense quite like Kansas City’s. The extra week off is a huge advantage for them—as is going up against a dinged up Peyton Manning. But I like the Broncos as home on the strength of Manning’s football IQ, and the atmosphere at Mile High. This is one that everyone should be tuned into. Broncos win 34-33

New England Patriots @ Carolina Panthers, Monday, 8:30pm

This is one of the most intriguing matchups of the weekend. Carolina’s defense is for real. They’ve proven that week in and week out, with no better example than their most recent performance against the 49ers, on the road. This week they get the chance to square off against one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. It won’t be so much about Newton vs. Brady, but Brady vs. this Panthers D—a group that hasn’t allowed more than 15 points in seven of their nine games this year. Newton has an opportunity to prove himself as well against a Pats passing defense that ranks 12th overall. The Pats have been vulnerable on the road this season, going 2-2 so far—and those two wins are by a combined nine points against the Falcons and Bills. I like the Panthers to step it up at home. Panthers win 21-16

NFL Week 10 Picks

Got some good news, bad news. Let’s start with the bad: I went 7-6 last week, by far the worst I’ve done this season, dragging the overall down to 83-50. The good? only three of ESPN’s experts did better, and by better I mean that all three went 8-5, so I didn’t lose a whole lot of ground in the grand scheme of things.

Onward and upward.

Your byes for Week 10: Cleveland, Kansas City, New England and NY Jets

Washington Redskins @ Minnesota Vikings, Thursday, 8:25pm

Things looked so promising for the Vikings as time was winding down against the Cowboys, but they decided to pull a big D and blow it in the last minute. This week they return home to take on another team from the NFC East on a short week. The ‘Skins are looking for their first back-to-back wins of the year and hope to build off of an impressive OT win against the Chargers. Conventional wisdom tells me the ‘Skins should walk over the Vikes, but seeing their defense clamp down on Dallas the way they did for 3.5 quarters makes me believe they’ll be able do the same against a Washington team that has been horribly inconsistent from game to game. Vikings win 24-23

Philadelphia Eagles @ Green Bay Packers, 1pm

I’m still not positive which Nick Foles is going to show up at Lambeau Field on Sunday, but a large part of me hopes that he’ll be even just half of the guy that was in Oakland this past weekend (3+ touchdowns and 200+ yards would be amazing). Rodgers is out indefinitely which plays big into this one. Who will be starting in his place is still up in the air, but from their inactivity thus far this week, it appears they’ll go with Seneca Wallace. No matter who it is, I don’t expect their offense to be all that effective, even if it is the Eagles that they’re facing. The Birds D has stepped it up as the season has progressed, and the offense appears to be righting the ship. Eagles win 34-10

Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons, 1pm

After the near disaster that was last week, I’m up in the air about this one for the Seahawks—not to mention they’re traveling about as far across the country as they can go (with the exception of Miami and Jacksonville). Atlanta has a ton of injuries that they’re dealing with, but it’s hard to discount the ability of Matty Ice to sling the ball downfield. I’m not sure how effective he’s going to be, though, going against the NFL’s second-ranked passing defense, which is allowing just 179.8 passing yards per game. No passing attack + No serious run game, equals… Seahawks win 21-17

Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears, 1pm

Josh McCown helped the Bears secure their first win at Lambeau since 2007, albeit against a much depleted Packers team. Still, the Bears have plenty to be happy about with their backup quarterback. It’s the other side of the ball that should have people worrying—as odd as that seems. The Chicago D is giving up just over 28 points (fourth worst in the league) and 381 yards of offense (seventh worst) per game. Not good news when you have one of the most prolific passing offenses coming into town. The weather may begin playing a factor here in November, but Megatron is a machine, and weather won’t slow him or Matthew Stafford down. Lions win 32-28

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans, 1pm

There’s a chance that the Jags could maybe…. ah forget it. Titans win 35-9

St. Louis Rams @ Indianapolis Colts, 1pm

Whatever juice Chuck Pagano gave his guys at halftime against the Texans worked perfectly. A team that looked down and out of it made a complete 180 and sent Houston to a miserable sixth straight loss. This week they’ll look to play like it’s the second half for the whole game and will get to toy with a St. Louis defense that is just below average—they’re near the bottom of the league in run defense, but actually rank pretty well against the pass (9th with 220.6 yards per game). Good luck keeping pace, Kellen Clemmens. Colts win 27-14

Oakland Raiders @ New York Giants, 1pm

They go from getting embarrassed to the tune of 7 TDs to having to travel across the country to face a quarterback that could conceivably throw 7 INTs in any given game. It probably won’t be this one, though. New York seems to have found their stride and get a pretty easy game at home coming off of an extra week of rest. I don’t see Eli having a perfect QB rating kind of day (like Foles did… let that sink in…) but he should, should!, be able to work his way around the league’s 25th ranked pass defense. Giants win 31-27

Buffalo Bills @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1pm

I’m sure after that shellacking last week, the last thing anyone from Pittsburgh wants to see or hear about is the AFC East. But at least it’s the Bills, right? With the exception of one gorgeous pass in the first quarter, Jeff Tuel didn’t do much of anything and the Bills offense gave up two defensive TDs to Kansas City to spoil an otherwise impressive performance by their own defense. I see this game going pretty similarly—the Steelers and Chiefs have looked almost the same(ish) on offense this year, not very flashy, predicated around the run, and a passing game that shows up when it needs to. Results should be similar as well. Steelers win 17-13

Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens, 1pm

Another divisional matchup for the Ravens to try and choke away, right here. For the Bengals, it’s just another game in general for them to try and choke away. Both teams, if you haven’t figured it out, are coming off of impressive choke-filled performances last week and are looking to forget about it quickly. Both were on the road, and both were ugly. The Ravens lost to a Jason Campbell-led Browns team (hell any Browns team is a bad team, let alone one with Jason Campbell under center), while the Bengals saw their chance slip away when Andy Dalton was sacked in the endzone in OT. Wouldn’t surprise me if this ended in a tie (You heard it here first if it happens!) but I’ll go with the Ravens at home, since they are 7-1 in their last eight home divisional games. Ravens win 26-20

Carolina Panthers @ San Francisco 49ers, 4:05pm

Forget the Bucs and Dolphins. This right here, ought to have been the Monday Night Football game this week. Carolina has been surging of late, thanks mostly to their defense and a maturing Cam Newton. The 49ers, on the other hand, have put a lot of pressure on their defense and asked Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick’s legs to carry the load. If Carolina can get a 2nd-ranked-rushing-defense performance out of their group and force the Niners to try and move the ball through the air with the league’s 31st ranked passing offense, they could eek out a road victory here. Panthers win 21-17

Houston Texans @ Arizona Cardinals, 4:25pm

Case Keenum loves him some Andre Johnson, and Andre Johnson loves him some Case Keenum. The duo was on fire early on, on Sunday night, but the situation with their Head Coach Gary Kubiak being taken out of the stadium on a stretch after suffering a mini stroke had to play some part in the team’s second-half collapse against the Colts. They’ll look to get back on the same page against a Cardinals defense that ranks 24th against the pass. If they can keep it together for four quarters, they should be able to snap their woeful skid. Texans win 27-23

Denver Broncos @ San Diego Charger, 4:25pm

This is where things get tough for Philip Rivers and the Chargers. Two of their next three games are against the two teams they’re chasing in the AFC West, starting with the Broncos this Sunday. This could very well turn into a shootout, but giving Peyton Manning an extra week of rest and preparation should be more than enough for Denver. This won’t be the bounce-back San Diego was hoping for after they failed to get the ball into the endzone from the one yard line on three tries late in the game against the Skins. Broncos win 42-35

Dallas Cowboys @ New Orleans Saints, 8:25pm

Poor Rob Ryan. Things didn’t go quite as planned against his brother Rex and the Jets, but he’ll get a chance at a different kind of redemption when he goes up against his former employer in national television. Demarcus Ware could be good to go in this one, which would be a big help for a defense that has been gouged for over 300 passing yards per game. Rob will have his unit prepared, going against an offense that he was able to practice against on a daily basis, which should play to their advantage. Plus, can you just picture in your head Tony Romo trying to play quarterback in the Superdome? The noise will be just too much to handle for the poor little guy. Saints win 33-28

Miami Dolphins @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Monday, 8:30pm

No one cares about this game. Dolphins win 6-3

NFL Week 9 Picks

In a lightly-scheduled week, there’s always the possibility that things could’ve gotten ugly, quickly. They didn’t, though, and this kid went 10-3, making the overall record 76-44 (here’s the link for those of you keeping track of how I’m doing vs. ESPN’s experts). It’s another light week this week, and we’ll look to keep the train rolling.

Your byes: New York Giants, Denver, Detroit, Arizona, San Francisco, and Jacksonville

Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) @ Miami Dolphins, Thursday, 8:25pm

It’s been a whole lot of junk on Thursday night this year, which has made picking them that much easier (7-1 to this point—thanks, Philly). This week sees the finally-surging Bengals, who look to rattle off their fifth win in a row and really take control of the AFC North, going up against a Dolphins team that is looking to avoid it’s fifth straight loss after a 3-0 start (remember when everyone wanted to pick them @ the Saints on MNF in week 4??? Seems like ages ago.) Since then, Miami’s offense hasn’t really been able to get anything going, and the defense isn’t doing much to help. The Bengals have been propelled forward on the arm of Andy Dalton who’s thrown 11 TDs to just 2 INTs over his last three games. Bengals win 31-21

Kansas City Chiefs (-3) @ Buffalo Bills, 1pm

Buffalo was able to hang around well into the second half of their game against the Saints last week, before eventually getting blown out. This week they get to host the league’s top-rated defense, at least in points per game (12.2). That’s a tall task for a Bills team that struggles to score in their own rite (18th with 22 per game) and is going with their not-completely-healthy backup QB. To think, Andy Reid might be 9-0 heading into his first bye week in Kansas City… Chiefs win 27-16

Minnesota Vikings (+10.5) @ Dallas Cowboys, 1pm

I can wholeheartedly relate to Vikings fans and how miserable it is to have an absolutely insane amount of instability at the quarterback position. It can really ruin a team, as we’re both seeing. The Vikings were able to squeeze into the postseason last year with a Week 17 win against the Packers, but that’s a far cry away after their 1-6 start this year—their only win coming on another continent. They get to head to Big D this week to take on a Cowboys team that seems just as unstable anymore after a collapse against the Lions with just seconds left of the clock. Meltdowns should be abound in this one, but the talent on the home team’s roster more than outmatches their visitors, plain and simple. Cowboys win 28-16

Tennessee Titans (-3) @ St. Louis Rams, 1pm

Both sides here are in desperate need of a win in this one. The Titans are coming off of a bye and a really rough stretch in their schedule, but have an opportunity to make up a ton of lost ground—three of their next four games are against opponents with a combined 6-17 record. Jake Locker should be much closer to 100 percent after the week off, and will look to attack a Rams defense that has the third worst QB rating against (104.5) and has given up the ninth most TD passes (14) and has the ninth fewest INTs (5). Plus, I can’t see myself picking Kellen Clemens any time soon. Titans win 24-12

New Orleans Saints (-5.5) @ New York Jets, 1pm

The fifth edition of the Ryan Bowl is bound to be an interesting one (they all are though, aren’t they?). Since they’ve been in the NFL  in the 90’s Rob is 0-4 against Rex. He has his best shot to end that losing streak this week as the Saints, who’ve been on a roll this year on defense, head to New York to take on a Jets team that managed just a week ago against the Bengals, and got torched on defense—just imagine what Drew Brees and Co. are going to be able to do. Part of me hopes it doesn’t have to come down to a last second defensive stand for Rob, because we all know how those one’s end up:

Rob-Ryan-Sad-face(GIF via DiehardSport.com)

Saints win 34-27

San Diego Chargers (EVEN) @ Washington Redskins, 1pm

At least the NFL gave the Chargers the week off between West to East trips this time, geesh. In weeks 2 and 3 they went from Philly to San Diego then back out to Nashville, and split those games. This time they headed from Jacksonville to SD and head back out to play in Washington, where they were 0-4 as a franchise until 2005. Philip Rivers has made quite the statement this year, leading the league’s 6th ranked passing attack, but despite the 4-3 record, the Bolts are finding that they have to keep pace with Denver and Kansas City in the AFC West. Rivers should shred the Washington secondary, but this could be a back-and-forth game like that week 2 matchup against Philly. I see the result being the same though for SD. Chargers win 33-30

Atlanta Falcons (+7.5) @ Carolina Panthers, 1pm

These NFC South rivals are on completely opposite trajectories. The Panthers have been on fire on offense, specifically the running game which is averaging 130 yards per game (8th best), putting up 30+ points in four of their last five (including three straight). The Falcons, meanwhile, have been completely decimated by injuries on offense, and have asked Matt Ryan to carry the load without his top two receivers and starting running back. Carolina has the running attack; Atlanta’s passing game is equally as good; this one should come down to what defense can step it up, and the way the season has gone, I’m pretty sure it’ll be the Panthers who put the clamp down at home. Panthers win 30-27

Philadelphia Eagles (EVEN) @ Oakland Raiders, 4:05pm

You know what’s ridiculous? The Oakland Raiders, the goddamn Oakland Raiders, are more stable at the quarterback position than the Philadelphia Eagles. W.T.Holy.F.? With how uninspired the Birds have looked over the last month and a half, and how far they have to travel for this one, and how flashy Terrelle Pryor looked against the Steelers, I have no reason to believe the Eagles will get back on their plane with a W. What happened to that high-octane offense that had me all giddy the first few weeks? Cummon Chip. Raiders win 17-13

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+16.5) @ Seattle Seahawks, 4:05pm

Mike Glennon. LOL. Seahawks win 24-3

Baltimore Ravens (-2.5) @ Cleveland Browns, 4:25pm

This is an extremely dangerous game for the Ravens, who look for their 12th straight win against the AFC North rival. The games here tend to be close (like any divisional game), decided by just a possession or two, and the Ravens have been teetering all year long. An upset here wouldn’t surprise me, especially considering Flacco loves to struggle against the Browns defense, but I like the extra week of rest and preparation for the Ravens on the other side of the ball. Two weeks of studying Brandon Weeden is so much more than enough time to figure him out. Ravens win 20-16

Pittsburgh Steelers (+7) @ New England Patriots, 4:25pm

Streaky, this Steelers team is. Lose four. Win two. Now they’re back on the losing shnide. Interesting note about Big Ben so far this year, and the stat which will likely determine the outcome of this one. In Pittsburgh’s two wins Ben was able to keep the INT column empty, but in each of their losses he’s thrown at least one. The Pats rank 6th with 10 INTs this season, and something tells me they’ll be able to get at least one out of Roethlisberger. Pats win 23-19

Indianapolis Colts (-2.5) @ Houston Texans, 8:25pm

Musta been nice for Indy to be able to soak in that win over their old QB for an extra week. They get a few extra hours this Sunday, before taking part in their second consecutive Sunday Night Football game, this one at Houston. Earlier in the year, you might have circled this one as a potential playoff preview, but that’s not likely the case anymore. Houston also comes into this one off their bye, but having dropped their last five games and seeing their once-stable QB spot get turn into something of a revolving door (thanks to injuries and poor performance). Case Keenum is expected to make his second career start after successfully snapping the Texas five-straight games with a pick-six streak. I’m not sure how exciting a shootout Luck-Keenum is going to be, though. Colts win 26-21

Chicago Bears (+11) @ Green Bay Packers, Monday, 8:30pm

Chicago had their best offensive output of the season against Washington two weeks ago, but it wasn’t enough, thanks to a last second Roy Helu Jr. TD. They’ll have had an extra week and a day to prepare for their showdown at Lambeau against a Packers team that hasn’t missed a beat on offense, despite missing more than half of their regular starting skill-position guys. Defense is going to be at a minimum in this one (odd for a game involving the Bears, but that’s just the way it’s been this season). Given Chicago’s struggles against the Pack of late (six straight losses, and no wins in Green Bay since 2007), I’ll stick with the cheeseheads. Packers win 48-41