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NFL Week 12 Preview

20-12 on the season and I face another one of those it-can-go-either-way-type of weeks. Another weekend where I can go 0-4 despite posting my second undefeated weekend prediction of the year last week. Four serious games on the menu, four games that can go either way. I’ll be happy just to get by with a 2-2 record this week but undefeated is always the goal of course. The good thing about this week is that it’s turkey week and if there was ever a weekend for family and friends to gang up around the flat screen, this is the week:

 

New England Patriots (7-3) vs. New Orleans Saints (10-0)

Jumping right into it. The Patriots may have the hardest schedule in the league. They had the undefeated Indianapolis Colts a couple of weeks ago on the road and get to play another blemish-free team when they face the Saints on Monday night in New Orleans. Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady. 2007’s undefeated team vs. a 2009 team threatening for that same title. The sparks should fly in the Superdome.

The Saints are on an absolute roll. New Orleans’ offense is as balanced as any team in the league, evidenced by the 183 rushing yards they rolled up last week against Tampa Bay. But the Saints aren’t without their flaws. They’re currently 17th in the league in defense and have been run on at will in recent weeks. While New England isn’t a predominant rushing team, head coach Bill Belichick has showed in the past that he will attack a team wherever their biggest flaw lies.

With Brady at the helm, New England is a threat to put up 40 points and over against any team in the league. New Orleans has been nursing a few injuries to some of their most important players on defense and expect Brady to let it fly down the field to Randy Moss and pepper New Orleans with intermediate routes to Wes Welker. The Patriots let one get away from them against the Colts so expect New England to push the ball down field and try to roll up as many points as possible so things won’t come down to any fourth quarter heroics.

But Brees won’t let things get out of hand on his own field. Brees is threatening Peyton Manning for the MVP award and trumping Brady would give him the same card that Manning holds already. It’s hard picking against Belichick and Brady but the Saints have made fools out of anybody that’s picked against them this year. The Saints haven’t played the toughest of schedules this year but beating New England would give them the last bit of respect that they feel they’re not getting. But that’s easier said than done. Brady’s killer instinct and Belichick’s “who cares” attitude will cut down the Saints bid for an undefeated record. Patriots 37-30

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) vs. Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

Pittsburgh week usually heightens the urgency for the Baltimore Ravens leading up to the game but this week will bare a different type of pressure. Playoff pressure. With both teams suffering losses last week, Baltimore and Pittsburgh will square off Sunday in a battle for the sixth playoff spot in the AFC.

While the Ravens are only 2-5 in their last seven games, it isn’t due to any lack of competition. Baltimore’s five losses have all come by the hands of division leaders with their average margin of defeat sitting at only 4.6 points per game. The next two weeks will be critical for the Ravens who will go on the road after their game against Pittsburgh to take on the Green Bay Packers. But if the Ravens can’t beat Pittsburgh, the road game against the Packers may not matter.

Including the playoffs, the Ravens are 1-4 against the Steelers in their last five meetings and 0-4 against Pittsburgh over that span when starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has played. Roethlisberger however, may not be at full strength this week after suffering concussion-like symptoms last week after he took a blow to the head in the Steelers game against Kansas City.

Early reports indicate Roethlisberger will play but at what level? Concussions seem to be taken too lightly around the NFL and playing the Ravens in Baltimore after a concussion isn’t the ideal circumstance. Baltimore is still smarting after a 0-3 mark against the Steelers last year and with another game with Pittsburgh on the horizon the week before the season ends, the Ravens know they have to strike now while the iron is hot. No Troy Polamalu and a woozy Roethlisberger is blood in the water for the thirsty Ravens and they’ll be ready to drink on Sunday. Ravens 20-14

 

 

Arizona Cardinals (7-3) vs. Tennessee Titans (4-6)

You know me. Normally, below .500 teams don’t make their way into the five-star matchup games of the week but the Titans are no ordinary below .500 team anymore. The winners of four straight, Tennessee has been coming on strong in the last few weeks and could seriously make a push for the playoffs if they continue on their current pace.

Since taking over for Kerry Collins, fourth-year QB Vince Young has teamed up with sophomore runner Chris Johnson to give Tennessee a serious one-two punch. Both Young and Johnson might be the fastest at their positions and trying to game plan against those two isn’t a task defensive coordinators necessarily jump up to take. Since Young took over at QB in week eight, both he and Johnson have accounted for 1551 yards and 10 touchdowns. Good for 4-0 and good for one of the scariest teams to play right now.

But the Cardinals aren’t scared of anyone, especially on the road. Arizona is 5-0 away from home this year and may have the most dangerous sextet of skill players in the league. Receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are legendary. Slot receiver Steve Breaston is threatening for his second consecutive 1000-yard season. Running back Tim Hightower is a goal line vulture with 15 touchdowns in the last two years. Rookie runner Chris “Beanie” Wells is averaging 4.7 yards a carry and is the franchise back the team has been searching for. And the walking Hall-of-Famer Kurt Warner is still one of the best signal callers in the game.

Warner was dinged up last week after he took a blow to the head and didn’t return for the second half of the Cards’ win against the St. Louis Rams. His status is vital if Arizona wants to reach a 6-0 road mark on Sunday. Regardless of their impressive collection of skill players, without Warner, this offense just doesn’t click. The Titans defense has been playing well during their win streak and would probably be able to handle Warner’s backup Matt Leinhart. Reports suggest Warner will be able to go but if he’s slowed, the Titans could pull the upset but I won’t pick against that group of skill guys if Warner is there to stir the drink. Cardinals 28-24.

 

Indianapolis Colts (10-0) vs. Houston Texans (5-5)

The Texans had it all in front of them last Monday night when they lost against the Titans 20-17. The ball club had never been 5-4 and hosting the sub-500 Titans on Monday night in a fierce rivalry would’ve been the perfect opportunity to collect another win. Houston has been hovering around the .500 mark for the majority of the last few years and need a win to stamp them as a serious contender.

Getting that win against the undefeated Colts won’t be an easy task. Indy has won games this year in every imaginable style. Defensive grudge matches and shootouts so they’ll come into Houston ready to play any type of game Houston is capable of. The Texans will be ready for this game after two near misses against the Colts. A last second missed field goal was a stinger in a 20-17 loss earlier this year in week nine but their 31-27 defeat last season was the things nightmares are made of. Leading 27-10 with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Houston saw the Colts run off the next 21 points to give them the improbable victory on Oct. 5.

The Texans have lost four out of their last five meetings to the Colts by an average of 4.7 points so Houston recognizes its right there, but they just need to capitalize. Emotional wins over the Ravens and Patriots in the last couple of weeks could have Indy sleepwalking into this game and an emotional loss to the Texans last Monday could have Houston ready to throw blows at the hated Colts.

Peyton Manning has the Colts under a 19-game regular season winning streak right now and he would love nothing better than to tie Brady’s 20-game regular season winning streak of a few seasons ago. He has the Colts on schedule for home-field advantage but with Houston in the middle of the playoff hunt and ready to extract some payback, Indy will be in for another tough game. But tough games don’t scare Indy. Houston would normally be the trendy pick but until they can win a big time game, you won’t find me picking them. Colts 27-17

 

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November 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Revisiting the Weekend

4-0 on the weekend, you know I couldn’t be happier. 20-12 heading into the final stretch before things start to heat up with three games on Thanksgiving Day. Another 4-0 mark next week would put me 10 games over .500 and be just the cushion I need to start making all kinds of crazy picks. But that’s a whole three days away. Before I start dreaming about next week, I have to revisit last weekend. It was pretty competitive as only one of the games I predicted ended with a 10-point margin. Just in case you missed anything:

 

Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys

What I predicted …

Cowboys 27-17

What I said would happen …

“Tony Romo and the Dallas offense will try to bounce back from last week’s one touchdown performance and Washington could be the perfect opponent. In their last three games, Washington has allowed scores of 40, 75, 30, 58, 67 and 57 yards. For big-play specialists like Felix Jones and Miles Austin, a rebound could definitely be in the cards. Dallas is a team known for two things: big plays and pressuring the passer. In the last few weeks, Washington has been known for several things but mostly: allowing big plays and failing to protect the passer. Washington will be up for the game but with so many gaps in their play the last few weeks, Dallas will bounce back and chop down the Skins.”

What actually happened …

The Cowboys won 7-6. The game went as no one expected and was one of those old-school-classic-three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust-type of game. Dallas got their ground game going with 153 yards but Romo and the passing offense was terrible for the second consecutive week but kicked into high gear when they needed to. Trailing 6-0, Romo led the ‘Boys on a nine-play, 60-yard drive that concluded with Romo shaking off a sack and finding Patrick Crayton in the end zone for a 10-yard score. It was another disappointing loss for the Redskins, who outplayed Dallas until the last 2:41 of the game.

My reactions …

People are ready to write the Cowboys (7-3) off after two solo touchdown performances but sometimes you have to give credit to the other teams. They played a Packer team that was on borderline desperation mode and needed the game more than the ‘Boys did a couple of weeks ago. Dallas then came back to play longtime rival Washington, who knows the Dallas’ players and game plans inside out. Even with two subpar performances, they still went 1-1 and still lead the NFC East. Just for an added bonus, they get the Oakland Raiders this week and then will have 10 days off before they take on the New York Giants. Things actually couldn’t be better right now in Dallas unless the back injury that Romo suffered against Washington lingers. Stay tuned…

Washington (3-7) continues their lost season and will have to go with a couple of third-stringers in their offense after two more season injuries against Dallas. Running back Ladell Betts and offensive guard Chad Rinehart left early with leg injuries but it was still a valiant performance for Washington. Their defense played their best game of the season and if the team can continue to manufacture strong performances like they’ve produced in the last couple of games, Washington could finish on a high note.

 

Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Giants

What I predicted …

Giants 34-16

What I said would happen …

“Atlanta will need to attack New York’s secondary if they want to win. New York has allowed eleven touchdown passes over the course of their four game losing streak. Without Turner though, Atlanta loses the threat of play-action and the Giants will be allowed to tee off on Ryan. Atlanta isn’t the strongest defense but they aren’t the worse. Against New York however, the Falcons will have to be prepared to stop the run because the Giants will be sure to reinforce the run coming off four consecutive losses and a bye. This is a game New York has to win and a team in desperation mode coming off a bye week shouldn’t be picked against.”

What actually happened …

The Giants won 34-31. New York held off a late Atlanta run after leading 31-17 to start the fourth. New York got a 36-yard field goal in overtime to break their four-game losing streak. Eli Manning posted his first 300-yard passing game at home and his two big passes in the overtime set his team up to capitalize on a win. Atlanta showed a lot of courage playing without leading rusher Michael Turner but lost for the fourth time in the last five weeks.

My reactions …

The Giants (6-4) got a much needed win and can now focus their sights on a strong finish to end the year. After a four-game slide, New York is only a half game out of first place in the NFC East and will go on the road to take on the reeling Denver Broncos on Thanksgiving night. If the G-men can knock off the Broncos, they’ll get an opportunity to take over first place in the division when they host the division-leading Cowboys in two weeks.

1-4 in their last five games, Atlanta (5-5) needs a break and quick if they have any intentions on qualifying for the postseason. They’ll get one next week when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but home games against the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints mean there’s no room for slippage. Atlanta has to come out of the next three weeks with at least a 7-6 record for a chance at qualifying, 8-5 would be excellent but Atlantians shouldn’t cross their fingers.

 

Indianapolis Colts vs. Baltimore Ravens

What I predicted …

Colts 28-24

What I said would happen …

“Baltimore’s best chance to win may come down to a shootout between Manning and sophomore QB Joe Flacco. The Ravens’ offense has been struggling recently, averaging 11.5 points per game in the last two weeks. The Colts’ secondary is depleted however, and behind the backing of a raucous crowd that despises everything associated with Indianapolis, the Baltimore offense could undergo a revival. But even if they do get into a shootout, Manning has the moxie and weapons to win that battle. Regardless of how depleted Indianapolis’ secondary is, Manning is going to keep them in the game and just like he’s shown all season, if you keep him around enough, he’ll get you in the end.”

What actually happened …

The Colts won 17-15. Trailing 17-15, Flacco was leading the Ravens on a comeback drive before throwing an interception at Indy’s 13-yard line with 2:42 left in the game. Baltimore’s defense played a strong game, limiting the explosive Colts’ offense to only 17 points but (as has been the theme for much of the year) a missed field goal by newly-signed Billy Cundiff cost Baltimore a chance at taking a 15-14 lead in the third quarter. A field goal by ex-Raven Matt Stover gave Indy the late and final lead and the Colts kept their 19-game regular season winning streak alive.

My reactions …

The Colts (10-0) continue to find ways to win games. Whether it’s through a shootout or a defensive grudge match, Manning and Co. can’t be beaten right now, literally. Thanks to the Tennessee Titans upset win over the Houston Texans on Monday night, the Colts have pretty much wrapped up the AFC South division. How soon they start resting players will depend upon how soon they can secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC, which looks more and more promising by the week. Stay tuned…

Baltimore’s chances at postseason qualification remained idle after both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals lost last weekend. Baltimore will get a banged up Steeler team at home next week for a shot at taking over second in the AFC North. The Ravens (5-5) aren’t without injuries of their own, having lost starting corner Fabian Washington for the remainder of the season with a knee injury. Next week’s game against Pittsburgh will already be a huge rivalry game but with playoff seeding on the line, it’ll be the biggest game of the year for both teams. Stay tuned…

 

San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos

What I predicted …

Chargers 28-16

What I said would happen …

“San Diego is catching the Broncos at the perfect time with Orton’s status questionable and their defense second guessing what they’re doing. Trying to contain the Chargers’ offense is close to impossible right now, especially with LaDainian Tomlinson starting to come on. Rivers and a running game is the recipe for the victory and San Diego will be ready to take advantage of now suspect Bronco team.”

What actually happened …

The Chargers won 32-3. San Diego blasted Denver, getting revenge from a nasty loss to the Broncos on Monday night a few weeks ago. Denver’s offense couldn’t get started and even resorted to bringing in a hobbled Orton in relief of the ineffective Chris Simms before rookie running back Knowshon Moreno fumbled on the goal line with Denver trailing 13-0. The Chargers took back first place from the once surging Broncos and left Denver looking at the possibility of missing the playoffs after starting 6-0.

My reactions …

San Diego (7-3) is flying high. The Chargers will play Kansas City and Cleveland in the next two games with a chance of expanding their lead over Denver and putting a strong bid in for home-field advantage in the playoffs. LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown against Denver and appears to be coming on strong in the second half of the Chargers season. Chargers QB Philip Rivers is playing at a high level right now and might be the third best quarterback in the AFC behind Manning and Tom Brady.

Denver (6-4) is a ship sinking and it will be interesting to see if anybody jumps overboard. Moreno and emotional receiver Brandon Marshall got into a brief shouting and shoving match after Moreno’s fumble. The Broncos get the Giants and Colts in the next few weeks so things could possibly get a lot worse. Although Orton finished the game, his health is obviously still in question and the defense has fallen off significantly since their strong play earlier in the season. A loss this Thanksgiving night against the Giants would signal a full collapse for the Broncos and could be the nail in the coffin for Denver’s season. Stay tuned…

November 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

NFL Week 11 Preview

16-12 on the year but I feel good about this week though. This weeked isn’t as appetizing as the recent weeks have been but nevertheless; it’s still a good one. It’s rivalry week around the league with some old friends reacquainting themselves with one another. Rivalry games is what football is made out of and teams get to flex their muscle this week. Rivalry games are usually close so viewers should be treated to some competitive games. But of course, anything can happen but when it comes to what I think… here goes nothing.

 

Washington Redskins (3-6) vs. Dallas Cowboys (6-3)

Normally I don’t highlight games featuring a below .500 team but the Redskins/Cowboys rivalry is a game where you wipe the records off the plate. The Redskins have struggled all season but showed some signs of life last week in their 27-17 win over the Denver Broncos. Dallas was hot before last Sunday’s 17-7 loss at Green Bay but both teams will be refocused when they resume their long time rivalry this week.

Washington will enter the game with Ladell Betts starting over the injured Clinton Portis at running back. Betts led the team with 114 rushing yards last week and added a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He gives the Redskins some fresh legs and returns the spunk the Washington running game. Betts’ performance will be critical against Dallas because Washington still hasn’t found a consistent passing attack. If Betts gets going, maligned quarterback Jason Campbell won’t be forced to carry the load which is a recipe for disaster for the Redskins.

Establishing Betts will be hard to do against the Cowboys however. Dallas hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season and will undoubtedly stack the line and dare Campbell to beat them. The Dallas defense has been playing extremely well over the last few weeks and will pose a major problem for Washington with their speed and quickness. Washington already doesn’t pass protect well and that’s exciting news for guys like DeMarcus Ware and Bradie James.

Tony Romo and the Dallas offense will try to bounce back from last week’s one touchdown performance and Washington could be the perfect opponent. In their last three games, Washington has allowed scores of 40, 75, 30, 58, 67 and 57 yards. For big-play specialists like Felix Jones and Miles Austin, a rebound could definitely be in the cards. Dallas is a team known for two things: big plays and pressuring the passer. In the last few weeks, Washington has been known for several things but mostly: allowing big plays and failing to protect the passer. Washington will be up for the game but with so many gaps in their play the last few weeks, Dallas will bounce back and chop down the Skins. Cowboys 27-17

 

Atlanta Falcons (5-4) vs. New York Giants (5-4)

The Giants’ backs are against the wall. They’ve lost four straight and Minnesota and New Orleans continue to pile up victories, making winning the NFC East or at least finishing strong a must if they want to get into the playoffs. Their bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. They had a week off to clear their heads and refocus on how they want to attack their remaining seven games.

They could start with the run game. New York has gotten away from their bread and butter this year and has let QB Eli Manning air it out. With Manning nursing a foot injury and a group of inconsistent wideouts, getting back to the ground would probably be best for all parties involved. The collapse of the once feared Giant defense has been the most troubling throughout their skid but they’ll get an Atlanta team coming to town that’s been struggling offensively as of late.

While the Falcons have been running the ball with some serious authority in the last few weeks, QB Matt Ryan has slumped considerably. Ryan has thrown three touchdowns and six interceptions in his last three games as Atlanta has dropped to 1-3 in its last four. While his running mate Michael Turner has been on a tear recently, he’ll miss Sunday’s game with a sprained ankle, putting even more pressure on the sophomore signal caller.

Atlanta will need to attack New York’s secondary if they want to win. New York has allowed eleven touchdown passes over the course of their four game losing streak. Without Turner though, Atlanta loses the threat of play-action and the Giants will be allowed to tee off on Ryan. Atlanta isn’t the strongest defense but they aren’t the worse. Against New York however, the Falcons will have to be prepared to stop the run because the Giants will be sure to reinforce the run coming off four consecutive losses and a bye. This is a game New York has to win and a team in desperation mode coming off a bye week shouldn’t be picked against. Giants 34-16

 

Indianapolis Colts (9-0) vs. Baltimore Ravens (5-4)

Bill Belichik personally let the Colts off the hook last week by going for it on fourth-and-2 within his own 30. New England was inches away from handing Indy their first loss of the season but Baltimore will try to be the first opponent to break the Colts’ 18-game regular season winning streak. Peyton Manning is having another MVP-type season and is carrying an offense with no running game. The Colts’ defense has been losing bodies but packaged together a nice game plan late in the game to overtake the Patriots last week.

Baltimore is entering a rough patch in their schedule. Over the next three weeks the Ravens will see Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Green Bay. Beating Indy would be a huge confidence booster for a team that’s somewhat unsure of themselves at this point. Baltimore’s 5-4 record has several around the league questioning if Baltimore is a serious contender this year but upending Manning would restore a lot of confidence.

The Ravens will have to turn the heat up on Manning to get him out of his comfort zone but that’s easier said than done. Baltimore loss premier pass rusher Terrell Suggs last Monday to an errant block from Cleveland QB Brady Quinn. With Haloti Ngata nursing an ankle injury and his status questionable, the Ravens could be without two key members from their front seven.

Baltimore’s best chance to win may come down to a shootout between Manning and sophomore QB Joe Flacco. The Ravens’ offense has been struggling recently, averaging 11.5 points per game in the last two weeks. The Colts’ secondary is depleted however, and behind the backing of a raucous crowd that despises everything associated with Indianapolis, the Baltimore offense could undergo a revival. But even if they do get into a shootout, Manning has the moxie and weapons to win that battle. Regardless of how depleted Indianapolis’ secondary is, Manning is going to keep them in the game and just like he’s shown all season, if you keep him around enough, he’ll get you in the end. Colts 28-24

 

San Diego Charges (6-3) vs. Denver Broncos (6-3)

San Diego has to be going into this game ready to punch Denver square in the mouth. The Broncos handed San Diego an embarrassing Monday night loss a few weeks ago when Eddie Royal returned two kicks in a 34-23 win that left the Chargers reeling at 2-3. San Diego has won four straight since then while the Broncos have lost three straight.

With both teams 6-3 the division is on the line. Denver’s QB Kyle Orton sustained an ankle injury last week against the Redskins and his status is up in the air for this week’s game. If Orton is unable to play, it would be a huge blow for Denver. His backup, Chris Simms, has proven that he’s no more than an adequate player in the league and he’ll struggle to match Chargers’ QB Philip Rivers throw for throw.

This game will be on the Broncos defense to win and if the last three weeks has been any indication, they’ll struggle to contain San Diego’s high-profile passing attack. Teams have averaged 28.3 points per game against Denver’s vaunted defense over the last few weeks and San Diego scores four touchdowns in a game on a bad day. Regardless if Orton plays or not, Denver’s offense is going to be hampered with either a healthy Simms or a hobbled Orton. The Broncos will have to hold San Diego below 20 points if they expect to win.

The winners of four straight, San Diego is on the up and up. Motivation from an earlier loss will be extra motivation for the Chargers, knowing the game is on the line. San Diego is catching the Broncos at the perfect time with Orton’s status questionable and their defense second guessing what they’re doing. Trying to contain the Chargers’ offense is close to impossible right now, especially with LaDainian Tomlinson starting to come on. Rivers and a running game is the recipe for the victory and San Diego will be ready to take advantage of now suspect Bronco team. Chargers 28-16

November 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Revisiting the NFL’s week 10

Arghhhh!! Thanks to Bill Belichick I finished 1-3 on the weekend for my first losing week in a while. I guess it’s better than nothing because I almost went 0-4 on the weekend. I can’t really be mad because I knew it was going to be one of those wacky weekends and it was just that. Just in case you missed anything, here’s your recap:

 

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

What I predicted …

Steelers 27-17

What I said would happen …

“Pittsburgh had Cincinnati on the ropes in their first contest but couldn’t finish them off because of a lackluster running game. Mendenhall has beefed up that phase of the Steeler attack and expect Pittsburgh to be the more balanced of the two teams this weekend. Whichever team fails to establish the run will lose and all signs point to Cincy struggling in that category.”

What actually happened …

Cincinnati won 18-12. The Bengals came through Pittsburgh with a stifling defense and limited the Steelers to 226 total yards and repelled their red zone offense to four field goals in each of their four trips. Cincinnati didn’t do much on offense themselves but a 96-yard kick return from Bernard Scott equaled the only touchdown of the game. The Bengals sacked the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger four times and knocked down several of his passes while holding Pittsburgh’s running backs to just 57 yards. Cincy then used an 11-play, 52-yard drive to tack on another field goal to make it 18-12 to ensure that the Steelers would have to score a touchdown to win but Pittsburgh wasn’t up for the challenge.

 

My reactions …

The Bengals are headed for a first round bye and team continues to push forward despite dealing with a recent rash of injuries. Sweeps over the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens has the team believing every team head coach Marvin Lewis tells them. Cincinnati will play Oakland, Cleveland and Detroit in the next few weeks with a chance to push their record even further up the ranks. The Bengals have to love the position they’re in right now, at the top of the AFC North and currently second place in the AFC race. The Bengals (7-2) might be playing better football right now than the AFC-leading Indianapolis Colts and if they can capitalize on an easy schedule over the next few weeks, they’ll have a great chance to make some major noise.

Pittsburgh has to obviously be disappointed by failing to upend the Bengals but the season is nowhere near finished and the Steelers (6-3) are only a half game away from tying the Bengals. Although Cincinnati has the tie breaker, anything can happen and the Steelers just need to focus on their remaining schedule. The Steelers had won five straight before losing to Cincinnati so Pittsburgh shouldn’t fret too hard over the loss.

 

Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers

What I predicted …

Cowboys 34-16

What I said would happen …

“Green Bay desperately wants to prove it can win without Favre but until they can play consistent defense and protect Rodgers, that won’t happen. The ‘Boys excel at pressing the passer and their offense has been pretty hot for the past few weeks. If the ‘Boys aren’t too full over their big win against the Eagles, they’ll handle the Packers on Sunday”

What actually happened …

Green Bay won 17-7. The Packers jumped Dallas’ Tony Romo from start to finish. The Cowboys never established their run game; running the ball only 11 times with their group of backs. Green Bay’s pass protection was horrid once again, allowing Aaron Rodgers to get sacked five times in the game. But the Packers made up for it by sacking Romo four times and forcing three turnovers. Trailing 17-0, the Cowboys had a chance to get back into the game but Romo was picked off at the one-yard line before throwing a nine-yard touchdown pass to Roy Williams with 38 seconds left.

My reactions …

Green Bay (5-4) bounced back in a game they had to win and got a big victory over the once streaking Cowboys. Their pass protection continues to be a sour subject but if they can continue to get consistent play from their defense and keep Rodgers in the game, sooner or later the QB is going to make a play. At 5-4, the Packers are still in the mix for a wildcard birth but they need to be consistent down the stretch. Minnesota and New Orleans continue to pile up wins and the division winners of the NFC West and East will both get automatic playoff spots. A postseason slot isn’t out of the cards but better play is mandatory if the Pack wants to get in and Sunday’s win may have pointed them in the right direction.

With the Philadelphia Eagles losing, the ‘Boys are still in the comfortable chair of division leader. Dallas (6-3) will get the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders at home in the next couple of weeks so it will be important for them to capitalize on those games. Dallas shouldn’t be too heartbroken over their loss to the Packers considering Green Bay was pretty desperate after losing two straight games. Running the ball only 11 times is the ultimate recipe for disaster and look for the Cowboys to come out with better balance over the next few weeks.

 

Philadelphia Eagles vs. San Diego Chargers

What I predicted …

Chargers 30-23

What I said would happen …

“If Westbrook is unable to play, the Chargers could just run away with this game. Philadelphia is going to bring their exotic blitzes against the Chargers but Rivers is experienced enough to handle that with ease. Once the Eagles do sell out with their blitz schemes, Rivers will be allowed to take advantage of Philly’s smallish cornerbacks and launch the ball downfield to the biggest set of receivers in the league.”

What actually happened …

San Diego won 31-23. The Chargers got a retro performance from running back LaDainian Tomlinson – who rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns – and San Diego extended winning streak to four games. The Chargers jumped to a 28-9 lead before holding off a late Eagles comeback. The Eagles Brian Westbrook returned but suffered another concussion that may have the rest of his season in jeopardy. With Westbrook on the shelf, Philadelphia only ran the ball seven times, forcing McNabb to a season high 55 pass attempts.

My reactions …

Philadelphia (5-4) is floating on dangerous waters. They frequently go away from the running game too often, leaving McNabb forced to compensate with big plays down the field. When those plays are taken away, Philadelphia struggles to put points up. With Westbrook expected to miss significant time, it’ll be up to rookie LeSean McCoy to revitalize the running game but it’s up to head coach Andy Reid to start emphasizing power football. Philadelphia seems to hover around expectations the early part of the season and then make a run late so they still have a chance to finish strong. Stay tuned…

San Diego (6-3) has bounced back nicely after a home loss to the once undefeated Denver Broncos. Four straight wins has the Chargers set up for a pivotal game next weekend in Denver with a chance to take over the division lead. San Diego has scored at least three touchdowns in six consecutive games and the defense has performed light years better than what it did in the early part of the season. If the Chargers can get pass the Broncos, games against Kansas City and Cleveland could give them the lift they need to challenge for a playoff bye. If Tomlinson can continue to build upon the success he had against the Eagles, San Diego could seriously make a Super Bowl run. They always seem to beat Indianapolis – who leads the AFC – and quarterback Philip Rivers can go toe-to-toe with any QB in the league. Stay tuned…

 

New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts

What I predicted …

Patriots 31 -20

What I said would happen …

“Indy is too banged up to run with the Patriots’ band of receivers and unless Colts defensive coordinator Larry Coyer comes up with a fantastic scheme between Monday and Saturday, New England could put up a lot of points. With their fourth and fifth string corners playing, Indy may be in a world of trouble. This would be the ideal game for the Colts to kill the clock with a punishing run game but Indianapolis is only averaging 85 rushing yards per game as a team

What actually happened …

Indianapolis won 35-34. Patriots head coach Bill Belichik may have made the worse coaching call in his career on his decision to go for fourth-and-2 from his own 28 leading 34-28. The Patriots couldn’t pick it up and Peyton Manning drove his team down the field for the game winning touchdown. The Pats had dominated the game to that point, leading at one point 31-14.

My reactions …

The Colts continue their undefeated streak and will march on to play Baltimore and Houston on the road in the next couple of weeks. Indianapolis (9-0) is going to have their work cut out for them in the next couple of weeks against a couple of quarterbacks who will challenge their depleted secondary. The Colts’ Peyton Manning is threatening to take home his fourth MVP trophy and comeback wins like the one on Sunday is definitely a heavy feather in his cap. Indy seems to start fast every year however, and they only have one Super Bowl to their credit for all their 8-0, 9-0 and 10-0 starts. If the Colts can get some of their guys healthy again, the road to the Super Bowl would go through Indianapolis and Manning would love nothing better than that.

The Patriots will bounce back as they usually do. Going for it on fourth-and-2 is a heavy vote in confidence for the belief that Belichik has in Tom Brady but it’s also a shot in the head to the belief he has in his defense. The Colts may have still ran down the field to score a touchdown even if Belichik would’ve elected to punt but we’ll never know. The Patriots still sit comfortable as the division leader of the AFC East but find themselves in a four-way battle for the second spot. The weather gets crazy in New England around December so it will be important for the Pats to try to establish a run game over the next few weeks assuming the weather permits Brady from launching downfield. New England isn’t the same dominant force that they were a few weeks ago but they’re still pretty formidable. If the Pats can avoid Belichik making any more close calls, they should be fine. Stay tuned…

November 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What a Week! Week 10 NFL Preview

15-9 on the season I am. Somewhat satisfied I am. Going undefeated this week I will. Another NFL weekend doozy coming up. Although the season is already dwindling, the matchups continue to heat up. It’s a shame football can’t be played all year long but while it’s here, we got to enjoy every drop of it. And the flavor couldn’t be better for this week with four huge games on the menu.

Typically, I’m pretty sure about my picks but I could easily see me going winless this week.All four major matchups this week contain teams that can easily beat one another but even though I’m not completely sure, something had to be done:

Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)

There’s no better matchup than a slate between two good division teams. It also helps when both teams absolutely hate each other and Bengals’ QB Carson Palmer has already gone on record in recent years saying he hates the Steelers. After clobbering two pretty good teams last week both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will enter Sunday with the division on the line.

A Bengals win would give them a stranglehold over the division with a 5-0 divisional record. Pittsburgh sits at 1-1 in the AFC North with that one loss coming in their second half meltdown in Cincinnati earlier this year. The Steelers had a firm grip on that game before a dropped touchdown pass and a pick-six led to their 23-20 loss. But things are a little different this time around for both squads.

Sophomore running back Rashard Mendenhall gets his crack at the Bengals after being benched for disciplinary reasons in the first meeting. The Steelers have gone 5-0 with Mendenhall in the lineup and the youngster is averaging 5.7 yards a carry. He has singlehandedly restored the Pittsburgh running game and the Steelers offense is benefiting from it. Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu will also get his first start against Cincinnati this season after missing the first meeting with a knee injury. Polamalu is the center piece to the Steelers’ puzzling defense and has two interceptions in three games since his return.

The outlook isn’t so bright for the Bengals. Although they’ve been playing extremely well, the personnel losses have been starting to mount for Cincinnati. They lost wide receiver and notorious “Steeler-Killer” Chris Henry last week to a broken arm but that was before leading sack man Antawn Odom went down with a ruptured Achilles.

Cincinnati is the most balanced team in the AFC but the Steelers are known to wipe balance away from opposing teams. The Bengals have fed off running back Cedric Benson and their running game all season but Pittsburgh leads the league in run defense, giving up just 70.4 yards a game. Pittsburgh had Cincinnati on the ropes in their first contest but couldn’t finish them off because of a lackluster running game. Mendenhall has beefed up that phase of the Steeler attack and expect Pittsburgh to be the more balanced of the two teams this weekend. Whichever teams fails to establish the run will lose and all signs point to Cincy struggling in that category. Steelers 27-17

Dallas Cowboys (6-2) vs. Green Bay Packers (4-4)

I want to like the Packers because they’re a historic team with a top tier QB but they have too many problems. They don’t run the ball consistently well and they don’t protect their quarterback at all. They’re defense can only shut down inferior teams and their secondary (which is supposed to be the strength of their defense) gets shredded too often. Nevertheless they’re a difficult team to beat at home and will be ready to play after an embarrassing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is putting up outstanding numbers this year and would be a MVP candidate if the Packers had a better record. He has a live arm, strong confidence and is deceptively mobile. He has some pretty nice weapons to work with on his side of the ball and the Green Bay offense means that they’re always in the game.

The Cowboys however, have been on top of their game in recent weeks and are currently riding a four-game win streak. Rodgers, Drew Brees and Brett Favre are probably the only few QBs in the NFC playing better ball than the Cowboys’ Tony Romo right now, who has responded with a successful season so far after a disastrous ’08. Romo’s finding his receivers, protecting the ball and leading his team the way upper echelon signal callers are supposed to. Dallas has been getting strong play out of both their offense and defense and even the ‘Boys’ special teams have scored in two of the last three weeks.

At 4-4, Green Bay’s back is slightly against the wall. They’ve lost two straight, haven’t beaten a team with a winning record all season and just lost to the last remaining winless team. Another loss this week and Packer fans could be ready to storm the field. Green Bay desperately wants to prove it can win without Favre but until they can play consistent defense and protect Rodgers, that won’t happen. The ‘Boys excel at pressing the passer and their offense has been pretty hot for the past few weeks. If the ‘Boys aren’t too full over their big win against the Eagles, they’ll handle the Packers on Sunday. Cowboys 34-26

Philadelphia Eagles (5-3) vs. San Diego Chargers (5-3)

The last time Philadelphia flew across country to play a California team, they loss an embarrassing game to the dismal Oakland Raiders. It’s safe to say the San Diego Chargers are a better team than the Raiders so Philly will want to pay extra attention in the film room this week. San Diego has renewed confidence after winning three-straight and seeing the division-leading Denver Broncos drop two in a row.

This will be the Eagles toughest road test to date and things could get scary if top corner Asante Samuels is slowed by a neck injury he sustained last week against Dallas. The Chargers love to launch the ball downfield and have all kinds of weapons to make that happen. Star receiver Vincent Jackson and tight end Antonio Gates are huge targets and Chargers’ QB Phillip Rivers just tosses the ball up for them to grab.

By taking away the deep ball, the Cowboys laid out the blueprint on how to beat the Eagles last week and San Diego has the personnel to get the job done. Philadelphia specializes in the long ball but San Diego may have the best pair of corners in the AFC. Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer are well equipped to limit Donovan McNabb’s looks downfield and Cromartie has the length and speed to stay near speedy Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson.

It’s not known whether Eagles running back Brian Westbrook will play and his status would be a big boost or big loss for Philadelphia. San Diego is somewhat iffy in their ability to stop the run but fortunately for them, the Eagles don’t run the ball well. If Westbrook is unable to play, the Chargers could just run away with this game. Philadelphia is going to bring their exotic blitzes against the Chargers but Rivers is experienced enough to handle that with ease. Once the Eagles do sell out with their blitz schemes, Rivers will be allowed to take advantage of Philly’s smallish cornerbacks and launch the ball downfield to the biggest set of receivers in the league. Chargers 30-23

New England Patriots (6-2) vs. Indianapolis Colts (8-0)

After struggling with average teams the past couple of weeks, the Colts get their first major test of the season when they host the Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend. If this is the game that will decide home field advantage in the AFC then Indy is probably wishing they could’ve played the Pats earlier in the year. The Colts will be without three starters in their secondary against New England and for Tom Brady and Randy Moss, that equals big trouble.

New England’s offense has been clicking after struggling earlier in the year with consistency. Brady has 12 touchdown strikes in the last four weeks and Moss has benefitted from Brady’s hot streak with four TDs in three weeks. While the Patriot offense is catching fire, Peyton Manning and the Indy attack has been tapering off. Manning has just one touchdown pass in the last two weeks. The Patriots haven’t seen a QB quite like Manning all season however, and could be on their heels if Manning gets hot.

Manning will have to be at his best on Sunday to compensate for the Colts’ depleted secondary. If he tries to force anything, New England’s defense has been opportunistic over the last few weeks and could make Manning pay.

Indianapolis will be at home which will give them a huge boost on Sunday but that will probably be their only advantage against a stronger Patriot team. Indy is too banged up to run with the Patriots’ band of receivers and unless Colts defensive coordinator Larry Coyer comes up with a fantastic scheme between Monday and Saturday, New England could put up a lot of points. It’s no coincidence that New England’s two losses so far this year have come against teams featuring outstanding cover men. The Jets’ Darrelle Revis limited Moss to four catches for 24 yards and Denver’s Champ Bailey allowed Moss only one catch in an October clash. With their fourth and fifth string corners playing, Indy may be in a world of trouble. This would be the ideal game for the Colts to kill the clock with a punishing run game but Indianapolis is only averaging 85 rushing yards per game as a team. Patriots 31-20

November 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Revisiting the Weekend

It was a pretty good weekend. Although I only went 2-2 in my predictions, I’ll take an even record over a losing one any day. My record stands at 12-7 so I feel pretty good about my smarts. I’m not sure what I’m going to do next week though because there’s at least six great games that should be focused on but before we get there, revisiting last weekend is a must. There were four five-star matchups including two blowouts and two great finishes. In case you missed anything, here it is:

 

Denver Broncos vs. Baltimore Ravens

What I predicted …

Ravens 24-21

What I said would happen …

“Baltimore’s defense is no longer elite but given two weeks to scheme around what isn’t working, they should be up for the challenge against a non-imposing offense in Denver’s. The Broncos have had two weeks to prepare also which makes this game a toss up. A fourth straight loss would be devastating for the Ravens while a loss for Denver would still equal first place in the AFC West. Expect Baltimore to play their best game of the season.”

What actually happened …
Baltimore won 30-7 and the Ravens’ defense came out fired up after a few subpar games and played their finest ball of the season. The Ravens limited Denver to 200 total yards and 66 rushing yards. Baltimore running back Ray Rice continued his breakout campaign with another fine performance: 84 rushing yards, 24 yards receiving and one touchdown. The return of left tackle Jared Gaither limited the Broncos to only two sacks and sophomore QB Joe Flacco posted a 109.2 passer rating.

My reactions …
The Ravens played outstanding defense. The Broncos came in undefeated but Baltimore took their offense apart piece by piece. The Ravens took away Denver’s short passing game and sat on their run game and Broncos’ QB Kyle Orton couldn’t beat them deep. Even though the Ravens’ offense scored 23 points against the Broncos’ stingy defense, Ray Lewis and company was much more impressive.

If Baltimore can continue to impress on the defensive side of the ball, they’ll be right there in the AFC’s final four just like they were last season.

Even with their smack down on Sunday, the Broncos (6-1) are still in first place of the AFC West but they must beware of the San Diego Chargers (4-3) who have won two straight. The Broncos’ schedule will get tougher with upcoming games against the Giants, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and another game against the Chargers so the margin of error is slim.

Sunday’s loss was a huge wakeup call for the Broncos because division leaders shouldn’t get dominated against third-placed teams. Denver is still a quality team but their upcoming schedule will be the telling card in predicting how far the Broncos will go. Stay tuned.

 

NY Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles

What I predicted …

Giants 26-17

What I said would happen …

“The Giants defense could probably win this game singlehandedly as long as Eli Manning doesn’t turn the ball over and keeps the offense flowing. Philadelphia gets the game at home which will give them a boost but after watching their offensive line get destroyed by the Raiders and Redskins, it’s hard to pick them against what they’ll see against New York”

What actually happened …

Philadelphia won 40-17 and Manning turned the ball over twice and Philadelphia capitalized. The Eagles obliterated the Giants and gave them their second embarrassing loss in three weeks. Philadelphia jumped on the Giants from the start of the game and led 30-7 at the half. Eagles’ QB Donovan McNabb exposed the Giants’ secondary with three touchdown passes and posted an outstanding 146.7 passer rating.

My reactions …
Aside from their disappointing loss against Oakland, Philadelphia has played extremely well with McNabb at the controls this season. Sophomore wide receiver DeSean Jackson is clearly the best receiver of his ’08 draft class and might be the best in the division. The scary thing is Philadelphia continues to play well with a patchwork offensive line and a hobbled Brian Westbrook.

The Eagles are scheduled to get both Westbrook and injured left tackle Jason Peters back for the playoff stretch run and will be extremely dangerous around late November-December with all their guns firing.

The Giants are in trouble. After feeding on the Oaklands, Kansas Cities and Tampa Bays of the league, New York has been smacked around the past few weeks by some of the NFL’s stronger teams. If the Cowboys don’t turn the ball over four times in their week two meeting with New York, the Giants would 4-4 on the season and 0-4 against teams with a winning record.

Injuries have really crippled the Giants’ secondary this year and they get the high-flying Chargers at home next Sunday. The pass rush hasn’t been the fierce unit we’ve come to respect and Manning hasn’t played well since his diagnosis of plantar fasciitis.

The Saints, Cowboys, Eagles and Vikings are the top four teams in the NFC now. The NFC West winner gets an automatic playoff bid and the Packers, Bears and Falcons still linger. With all that being said, the possibilities of New York missing the playoffs this year are strong and could happen if the Giants don’t get things rectified.

 

Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers

What I predicted …

Packers 28-24

What I said would happen …

“Sunday’s game could be a shootout and believe that Rodgers or Favre would love nothing better than to go toe-to-toe with one another. Green Bay’s offensive line was terrorized by the Vikes’ front seven the last time the two teams met, sacking Rodgers eight times. Green Bay’s left tackle Chad Clifton could return after sitting out the past few games but his status remains unclear. Regardless if he returns or not, Green Bay should have a better system in place to protect Rodgers after the disaster against Minnesota a few weeks ago. If the Packers can keep Rodgers upright, Minnesota will be in trouble”

What actually happened …

Minnesota won 38-26 and the Packers couldn’t keep Rodgers upright. Favre threw four touchdown passes against his former team and the Vikes jumped out to a 24-3 lead. Even though Rodgers put on a heroic comeback, leading his team within 20-24 at the bottom of the third quarter, his offensive line singlehandedly sabotaged him and the Packers’ hopes, allowing six sacks on the day.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson totaled 141 yards and Favre passed for another 244 yards. Minnesota held Green Bay to three points in the first half and came up with big stops in the second half although the Packers mounted a furious comeback.

My reactions …

The Vikings will get a week off to rest and prepare themselves for a crucial home-field stretch run. At 7-1, Minnesota is having their best season since the Randy Moss and Chris Carter days. Sunday’s win gave the Vikings a clean sweep of the Packers and they’ll come out of their bye with three consecutive home games against teams with a combined 7-14 record.

If complacency doesn’t set in, Minnesota could be 10-1 before they know it. Minnesota has been playing with a purpose this season because they know Favre’s years are limited. The defense is playing at a high level, rookie returner Percy Harvin has given the special teams a huge spark and the offense is averaging over 30 a game. Things couldn’t be better in Minnesota.

You can bet that Green Bay (4-3) will dedicate next April’s draft to getting some guys on the offensive line and a few pass rushers. That’s not to insinuate that the Packers’ season is over by any means but Green Bay will be hard pressed to go far this post season when they can’t protect their quarterback. Rodgers has been sacked 31 times in seven games this season and has been dropped at least five times in four games so far.

The Vikings have sacked Rodgers a ridiculous 14 times in two games and considering the top teams in the NFC all have strong pass rushes, Green Bay will find the going tough unless they drastically improve their offensive line. Stay tuned.

 

Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints

What I predicted …

Saints 40-24

What I said would happen …

“Atlanta can score with the best of teams but their secondary is their biggest Achilles heel. For a team as talented through the air as the Saints are, that could spell disaster for the Falcons and their chances to pull off the upset. If Atlanta wants to win this game, they’ll have to put the ball into running back Michael Turner’s hands and keep the Saints off the field. Anything less than 25 carries from Turner and Falcons’ defense will get exposed for a second straight week”

What actually happened …

New Orleans won 35-27. Atlanta played extremely well against New Orleans and had their chances late in the game to win but turnovers killed them. Saints QB Drew Brees passed for 308 yards and threw two touchdown passes. The Falcons’ Turner ran hard against New Orleans, rushing for 151 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan threw an interception at the Saints’ one-yard line with nine minutes remaining in the fourth and New Orleans responded with the game winning touchdown on the ensuing drive.

My reactions …

The Saints continue to pile up the wins. The offense was already dangerous but their defense has scored five times already this year, making New Orleans a dangerous two-way team. Running backs Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush give New Orleans a dangerous running game and receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey give them superior athletes out wide. The Saints and Vikings appear to be on a crash course for a 1 vs. 2 matchup in the NFC title game and as of right now, that would be the biggest game of the year.

Even though the Saints’ defense has scored touchdowns in back-to-back games, they have to be alarmed with the number of points they’ve been giving up. As long as the offense keeps it moving, everything is fine in the Big Easy but… Stay tuned.

Atlanta has nothing to hold its head down about. The Falcons took on New Orleans toe-to-toe for 60 minutes and the fact that they’ll get the Saints in Atlanta for the next go around is definitely a heads up for the Falcons. The defense didn’t play terrible but asking any defense to contain the Saints’ offense at this point in the season would be too much right now.

Atlanta has lost two straight games to the Cowboys and Saints but will get Washington at home next weekend and a chance to right the ship. Ryan hasn’t played well in his last two games but he still remains one of the better QBs in the league. If Turner can continue to churn out the yards, Atlanta should challenge for second in the NFC South.

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment