2015 NFL Season Preview
So what happens when I predict the future on DraftAmerica? Well, admittedly, it isn’t always pretty (which is to definitively say, it isn’t always right). But sometimes, I am right on the money (read the attached article, or simply scroll down to last year’s 28-24 Super Bowl pick). It’s a fickle business, but for those who live to prognosticate, this is a glorious time because you cannot be proven wrong. So as the 2015 NFL season inches closer, it’s time to unveil our official season predictions:
(*-Denotes Wild Card team)
AFC East: 1) New England 2) Miami* 3) Buffalo 4) New York Jets
AFC North: 1) Pittsburgh 2) Baltimore* 3) Cleveland 4) Cincinnati
AFC South: 1) Indianapolis 2) Houston 3) Tennessee 4) Jacksonville
AFC West: 1) Kansas City 2) Denver 3) San Diego 4) Oakland
NFC East: 1) Philadelphia 2) Dallas 3) New York Giants 4) Washington
NFC North: 1) Green Bay 2) Detroit* 3) Minnesota 4) Chicago
NFC South: 1) Atlanta 2) New Orleans 3) Carolina 4) Tampa Bay
NFC West: 1) Seattle 2) Arizona* 3) St. Louis 4) San Francisco
WC – Baltimore over Kansas City, Pittsburgh over Miami
Div – Indianapolis over Baltimore, Pittsburgh over New England
AFC – Pittsburgh over Indianapolis
WC – Seattle over Arizona, Detroit over Atlanta
Div – Green Bay over Detroit, Philadelphia over Seattle
NFC – Philadelphia over Green Bay
Pittsburgh over Philadelphia, 30-24
Breaking Down Super Bowl XLIX
Who saw this coming? Well, if you scroll down a little, you’ll see I had the Patriots beating an NFC West team to win Super Bowl XLIX before the year started, so forgive me if I whiffed on the NFC side of the equation, because I strongly believe I will get the outcome of this game right. The Patriots are here for the sixth time since 2001 and gunning for their fourth Lombardi Trophy, while the Seahawks are looking to bump the Patriots from the annals as the last team to go back-to-back. Who will prevail, and what will the keys to the game be? Well, for starters, you can refer to my midseason guide, “10 reasons the Patriots will win Super Bowl XLIX,” or you can read on below (I encourage you to do both). Here is an in-depth look:
Really, do you have to ask? Since the return of Rob Gronkowski, at least the healthy return, the Pats are averaging over five touchdowns per game. Sure, the Seahawks gave up the fewest points in the league this year, but their offense is too reliant on Marshawn Lynch’s ground game dominance, and there were more than a few eyebrows raised at Russell Wilson’s awful performance in the NFC championship game. Tom Brady, armed with Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels’ two weeks of preparation, will find the (few) holes in Seattle’s feared unit. EDGE: PATRIOTS.
Obviously, Seattle is the answer. But let me offer this: New England’s offense is more better than Seattle’s offense than Seattle’s defense is than New England’s (there really didn’t seem to be a grammatically proper way to phrase that). Nevertheless, while Seattle’s defense is great, New England’s is pretty darn good. Forget the Richard Sherman-Darrelle Revis debate, Revis is at worst the AFC’s best corner, and his teammate Brandon Browner knows his old Seattle mates pretty well. Jamie Collins could make a huge impact, even if it isn’t quite the one that Bobby Wagner made upon his late November return. Seattle has an edge here, but not by as much as you think. EDGE: SEAHAWKS.
Man are Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola slippery on returns, and Matthew Slater is as good as it gets covering kicks. I trust Stephen Gostkowski a little more than Massachusetts native Steven Hauschka with the game on the line, and unless he’s throwing touchdown passes on fake field goals, Jon Ryan doesn’t have as strong of a leg as Ryan Allen. EDGE: PATRIOTS.
Nothing against Pete Carroll, but there’s a reason he was sent packing after just three years while Bill Belichick is going strong well into his second decade in Foxborough. Belichick simply outcoaches his foes and has won plenty of games throughout the years on his own, something that Carroll, a great coach in his own right, can’t claim. Though he’s won at the college and pro levels, Carroll will never been seen in the same class as Belichick — unless, of course, he wins this game. EDGE: PATRIOTS.
Seattle must feel charmed after pulling out the most improbable of playoff wins against Green Bay and is riding high with eight straight wins. But there’s something about this us-against-the-world, everyone-hates-us rallying cry that just seems to work for the Patriots (see: an almost-perfect season after they were busted for Spygate after Week 1). There are so many wrongs that can be righted with this win for the Patriots, like losing to the Giants on this very field when they were 18-0. They can also preserve their own legacy by keeping Seattle from becoming the first back-to-back champs since the Pats did it in 03-04. Plus, will Tom Brady really lose three straight Super Bowls? All that said, one thing that gives the Seahawks a major boost is their undying mental toughness and unwillingness to be intimidated by anyone. If anything, they did the intimidating on this stage last year and after pulling victory from the jaws of defeat in the NFC title game, there won’t be much that will deter them throughout the course of this game. EDGE: EVEN.
This just feels like the Patriots’ year and time, even if their fans have been saying that for the past decade. Seattle is going for the vaunted repeat, but the Patriots are fired up by all the negative heat directed towards them and is ready to prove that it can win fair and square, with fully inflated balls, eligible receivers, and perhaps even smash-mouth football. Belichick will undoubtedly have some tricks up his sleeve that will catch the Seahawks off guard, and ultimately that will be the difference in a close contest. All three of New England’s Super Bowl wins have been by three points, and their two recent losses are by three and four points. In yet another tight one, they will come out on the right side this time. PREDICTION: PATRIOTS 28, SEAHAWKS 24.
2014 NFL Season Predictions
We all do it. And we’re usually wrong. Still, it’s fun to forecast the season ahead and check back later and see how it all turned out. Sometimes you perfect it (see: Red Sox, 2013), and sometimes you miss wide right (yes, I bought the Eagles “Dream Team” hype in their sorry 2011 season). But here is the 2014 version, and it’s complete with a fourth championship for the Patriots, who just may be on a collision course with Tom Brady’s childhood team, the 49ers, after three years of near-misses.
AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
1) NEW ENGLAND 1) PITTSBURGH 1) INDIANAPOLIS 1) DENVER
2) New York Jets* 2) Baltimore* 2) Houston 2) San Diego
3) Miami 3) Cincinnati 3) Tennessee 3) Oakland
4) Buffalo 4) Cleveland 4) Jacksonville 4) Kansas City
WC Rd.: Broncos over Ravens, Steelers over Jets
Div Rd.: Patriots over Broncos, Steelers over Colts
Champ: PATRIOTS over Steelers
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
1) PHILADELPHIA 1) GREEN BAY 1) NEW ORLEANS 1) SAN FRANCISCO
2) Dallas 2) Detroit 2) Tampa Bay* 2) Seattle*
3) Washington 3) Chicago 3) Atlanta 3) Arizona
4) New York Giants 4) Minnesota 4) Carolina 4) St. Louis
WC Rd.: 49ers over Bucs, Seahawks over Eagles
Div Rd.: 49ers over Packers, Saints over Seahawks
Champ: 49ERS over Saints
SUPER BOWL XLIV: NEW ENGLAND over San Francisco, 31-27
SUPER BOWL MVP: Rob Gronkowski
MVP: Drew Brees; Def. POY: Patrick Willis; Off. ROY: Sammy Watkins; Def. ROY: C.J. Moseley; Coach of the Year: Lovie Smith; Comeback Player of the Year: Reggie Wayne.
-I think the Vikings will be much improved and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them finish in third or even second place in the NFC North
-At least one coach will be fired in-season
-Denver will win fewer than 13 games this season for the first time since 2011
-Speaking of exciting quarterbacks… Michael Vick will recapture the old magic for at least a brief period in 2014
-Brees will edge out Andrew Luck for the MVP award
New England at Denver (-5)
The Patriots are really a 5-point underdog? They’ve lost just one meaningful game in the last 11 years when their opponent is favored by 4 points or more, so this is right where they want to be. Peyton Manning 4-10 against New England in his career for a reason: Bill Belichick. He outcoaches everyone, including John Fox (remember Super Bowl XXXVIII?). If the Broncos can’t hold a 24-point halftime lead against the Pats, what chance do they have in a close game? Like the Pats-Eagles near-clashes of yore that finally resulted in the two titans meeting in Super Bowl XXXIX, this feels like the Pats-49ers are on a collision course here. The pick: Patriots.
San Francisco at Seattle (-3.5)
The two teams split the regular season series and the Seahawks won more in more dominating fashion in the first meeting, 29-3, but the 49ers are perhaps the team of destiny and as hot as anyone in football having won eight straight. Russell Wilson probably can’t be counted on to lead the Seahawks from behind if need be, and the 49ers are simply clicking on all cylinders right now. It’s time for Colin Kaepernick to shake his mini CenturyLink Field hex. The pick: 49ers.
Last week: 9-6-1
MATCHUP PICK COMMENT
CLE at NYJ (-1.5) JETS Playing for pride now, the Jets win one at home for the gipper (Rex)
DAL (-3 ) at WAS REDSKINS Cowboys are in disarray while Skins look more organized under KC1
DEN (-10.5) at HOU TEXANS In his Houston home finale, Schaub goes out a winner… ATS, that is
IND at KC (-7) CHIEFS Chiefs have scored 101 points in last 2 games for 1st time since ’04
MIA (-3) at BUF DOLPHINS If Tyson Clabo blocks Mario Williams, Dolphins should avoid upset
MIN at CIN (-8) VIKINGS Vikings 0-6-1 on the road, Bengals 6-0 at home. Due theory anyone?
NO at CAR (-3.5) SAINTS Spotlight could be too bright for Carolina as it was 2 weeks ago
TB at STL (-4.5) RAMS Mike Glennon could get sacked by Robert Quinn in pre-game warmups
TEN (-4.5) at JAX TITANS Hard to imagine once-0-8 Jags pull off season sweep of Titans
ARI at SEA (-10.5) CARDINALS Despite division struggles desperate Cards stay close in Hawks’ nest
NYG at DET (-10) LIONS Lions bounce back big while slumping Giants throw in another clunker
NE at BAL (-2) PATRIOTS Plain and simple, Pats don’t lose 2 in a row and are thinking revenge
OAK at SD (-10) RAIDERS Chargers have a habit of not showing up in games they should win
PIT at GB (-2) PACKERS Matt Flynn magic may be alive and well in Green Bay after last week
CHI at PHI (-2.5) BEARS Game is now meaningless for Philadelphia
ATL at SF (-14.5) FALCONS This looks too easy to pick a 49ers blowout in Candlestick finale
Last week: 6-10
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Baltimore at Detroit (-6.5)
These teams meet for only the fourth time ever, with the home team winning the previous three meetings, most recently a 48-3 Baltimore rout in 2009. The Ravens may struggle to run and Detroit doesn’t permit much on the ground, so it’s on Joe Flacco to carry the offense, but the great equalizer could be Detroit’s own sagging run game with a banged-up Reggie Bush, who says he is ready to play. The Lions may also be feeling the mounting pressure of a playoff chase and memories of last year’s 0-8 second-half finish, and since the Ravens keep most games close, this one should come down to the wire. The pick: Ravens.
Washington at Atlanta (-7)
Oh the Redskins and Falcons. Division champs in 2012. Division chumps in 2013. It’s Kirk Cousins time for Washington now in DC, but perhaps the Falcons are really the bigger disappointment of the two teams. As long as Kirk doesn’t play like a third cousin, the Skins should cover against Atlanta, who returns home after playing five of their last seven games on the road. The pick: Redskins.
San Francisco (-6) at Tampa Bay
Somehow, the Bucs have turned things around after an 0-8 start. The 49ers have the inside track for the final wild card spot in the NFC playoffs and can ill afford a loss at Raymond James Stadium, but the Bucs have some serious momentum and with these two teams sporting the worst two passing offenses in the NFL, this game doesn’t figure to be decided by more than a few points. The pick: Buccaneers.
Seattle (-7) at New York Giants
The Seahawks were brought back to earth last week in San Francisco, but the Giants’ mini-run back to respectably came to a thud in San Diego as they were eliminated from playoff contention in a blowout loss. That may suck the life out of Big Blue while Seattle needs to bounce back in their quest for homefield advantage. The pick: Seahawks.
Chicago (-1) at Cleveland
Welcome back, Cutler. Josh McCown played admirably in Jay’s absence and the Bears are tied for first in the NFC North, while the Browns may be completely spent after giving their all before blowing things late at New England last week. Chicago needs this one too badly to afford a slip-up on Lake Erie. The pick: Bears.
Houston at Indianapolis (-6)
The Colts are living proof of “backing into the playoffs.” The AFC South champs are all but certain to end up as the No. 4 seed and have lost any momentum built up from a 6-2 start after losing Reggie Wayne. Houston is 0-11 lifetime in Indianapolis, but losers of 11 straight, they simply need to breakthrough at some point, and the limping Colts may be the perfect victims. The pick: Texans.
Buffalo (-1.5) at Jacksonville
Buffalo is a mess, and the Jaguars hot, winners of four of their last five. The all-time series is even at six apiece, including their epic 1996 playoff meeting, won by Jacksonville. Despite the momentum, Buffalo’s fifth-ranked rushing attack against Jacksonville’s 24th-ranked run defense could be the difference. The pick: Bills.
New England (-1) at Miami
The Patriots lost their best offensive weapon in Rob Gronkowski last week, but now control their own destiny for homefield advantage with Denver’s loss on Thursday night to San Diego. Still, Miami is hot and New England cannot possibly in the name of all that’s good keep pulling miracles week in and week out, can they? Karma will probably get me for making this pick but… The pick: Dolphins.
Philadelphia (-6) at Minnesota
Nick Foles is a man on a mission, as the Eagles are in the driver’s seat in the NFC East and LeSean McCoy’s legs could put Philly over the top. Minnesota lost a wild heartbreaker last week and now could be without Adrian Peterson this week, as he’s listed as questionable. His absence would be a major blow for Minnesota. The pick: Eagles.
New York Jets at Carolina (-11.5)
The Jets are still alive for the AFC playoffs, while the Panthers were shellshocked in having their eight-game winning streak snapped in New Orleans last week. They should bounce back, but it might be a little bit of a slow start in a Sunday night hangover against Gang Green. The pick: Jets.
Kansas City (-6) at Oakland
The Chiefs’ path to an AFC West title looks a little better with Denver’s loss, and the slumping Raiders are the perfect patsy. KC won the first meeting 24-7, and this could be much of the same for Andy Reid’s bunch, who straightened things out in a big way in last week’s 45-10 rout of Washington last week. The pick: Chiefs.
Arizona (-3) at Tennessee
The Cardinals need to keep winning to keep pace with the 49ers in the NFC wild card chase, but Tennessee is no easy foe. The Titans are in desperate need of a home win, though, losers of four straight at LP Field and hoping to avoid their worst home skid in 17 years, and this could be a trap spot for Arizona, especially facing the Titans’ ninth-ranked pass defense. The pick: Titans (Upset of the Week).
New Orleans (-6.5) at St. Louis
In 2011, the Saints inexplicably lost to the winless Rams in late October in what was ultimately a 13-3 year for them and a 2-14 year for St. Louis. No such trauma this time around, as Kellen Clemens and the Rams are starting to look like many expected when Sam Bradford went down. It’s not the Superdome, but this game will be played indoors, so the Saints should have no trouble racking up points against a team that has plenty of trouble scoring them. The pick: Saints.
Green Bay at Dallas (-6.5)
It’s so hard to give Dallas any kind of a big number, but Green Bay may have gotten its one obligatory non-Aaron Rodgers win last week, barely squeaking by Atlanta. Dallas is in desperation mode with Philadelphia red-hot now, and perhaps a big home outing is in order for the Boys after some lackluster previous efforts in Big D (see: Minnesota, Oakland). The pick: Cowboys.
Cincinnati (-2.5) at Pittsburgh
The Steelers may be out of bullets at this point, and the Bengals appear to be hitting their stride. Cincy has swept Pittsburgh just once since 1998, but the Steelers appear ripe for the picking this season. The pick: Bengals.
LOCKS OF THE WEEK (New Section)
I’m going to give this a try. I won’t say any game is ever a true lock, but each week I’ll try and run down the week’s seemingly-safest bets. For Week 15:
EAGLES -6.5 – Nick Foles can do no wrong; Vikings may be spent after last week’s wild finish
NYJ/CAR UNDER 41 – Jets won’t come near 37 points again; Cats could start sluggish coming off SNF rout
REDSKINS +7 – How can you give the 3-10 Falcons seven points? Cousins is eager to show he can start
Other solid options: Saints -6.5
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
San Diego at Denver (-10.5)
The Broncos got one of their few tests this season last month in San Diego, edging the Bolts, 28-20, who are still alive in the AFC playoff race at 6-7. Denver controls its own destiny for homefield advantage and has won all seven of its home games by at least 10 points, but with cold weather, Wes Welker’s absence and a short week, the Chargers could keep this one a little closer than most would expect. Denver shouldn’t lose, but they let a 28-6 lead fall to one score in the first meeting, and with two gunslinger quarterbacks, another one-score game could be in order. The pick: Chargers.
WEEK 14 (0-1 Thursday, 94-93-6 Season entering Sunday)
Unpicked Games From This Week’s Video
Atlanta at Green Bay (-3)
The Packers can’t be as bad as they looked on Thanksgiving, can they? The Falcons, a dome team, got an obligatory win last week and may be frozen outdoors. The pick: Packers.
Carolina at New Orleans (-3.5)
This won’t be your usual prime-time annihilation by the Saints, but they should be smarting after last week’s rout at the hands of Seattle, and Carolina’s eight-game winning streak needs to end some time. This will be a fight, but New Orleans is too much at home in the national spotlight. The pick: Saints.
Dallas at Chicago (-1)
Some serious bad news for Dallas, besides being on the road in frigid Chicago: the calendar has turned to December, where Tony Romo is 13-19 (including January games) in his career. The Cowboys’ last-ranked defense permits 421.6 yards per game and is ranked 31st against the pass, while Chicago’s pass offense, even starting Josh McCown these days, is fifth. That could be a bad combo for Dallas in cold weather in a must-win game for both teams. The pick: Bears.
Other picks: Ravens -7, Lions +3, Jets -2.5, Patriots -13, Buccaneers -3, Colts +6.5, Steelers -3.5, Redskins +3.5, Broncos -13, Chargers -3.5, Rams +6, 49ers -2.5
Last week: 12-2
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
New Orleans at Seattle (-6)
Talk about Creme de la Creme. In a game that could ultimately decided homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs, the Seahawks will be without Percy Harvin, but this game should have it all. The Saints’ prolific offense and Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” defense will get all the headlines, but the game could ultimately be decided by how well Russell Wilson performs against the much-improved New Orleans defense. Both teams are well rested, with the Seahawks coming off a bye and New Orleans having last played on Nov. 21. Ultimately, the crowd noise of CenturyLink Field and Seattle’s potent running game could prove too much for the Saints, who have been underwhelming on the road at times this year (see a Week 9 loss to the Jets). Seattle is almost automatic at home and is starting to pick things back up after a couple of scares a few weeks back against St. Louis and Tampa Bay. This one should stay close throughout, but it could come down to a key turnover late by Seattle’s ballhawking secondary, which is still a force to be reckoned with even without the services of Brandon Browner. The pick: Seahawks.
Dolphins +2, Eagles -3, Panthers -7.5, Patriots -9, Jaguars +7, Vikings (pick), Titans +4.5, Chargers -1, Rams +9, Falcons +3.5, Chiefs +5.5, Redskins +1.5
Green Bay at Detroit (-7)
The Lions haven’t won on Thanksgiving since they beat Brett Favre’s Packers, 22-14, in 2003. That’s a big monkey to get off their backs, especially coming off a loss to 3-8 Tampa Bay. Matt Flynn has a long ways to go to fill Aaron Rodgers’ shoes and the Packers are coming off an underwhelming tie to Minnesota, but a win over Detroit would give them a season sweep and sole possession of first place in the NFC North. With neither team playing over the moon, this should be close either way. The pick: Packers.
Oakland at Dallas (-9)
Dallas has been maddeningly inconsistent in 2013, winning consecutive games only once, and they have only had one true runaway win, a 31-7 rout of St. Louis in Week 3, though they have also posted 31-16 and 17-3 wins over Washington and Philadelphia, respectively. Still, at times they have played down to competition (see: Minnesota, 27-23 win, San Diego, 30-21 loss), so it can be dangerous to give them nine points. But alas, the Raiders have just one road win this season, a squeaker over woeful Houston, and they are starting a rookie quarterback in Matt McGloin, so with a chance to step into first place by their lonesome on national television, Dallas takes advantage of the opportunity at hand, as they did last time they faced Oakland on Turkey Day (a 24-7 win in 2009). The pick: Cowboys.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore (-2.5)
The Steelers have turned it around after a dismal 2-6 start, while the Ravens have hung around despite a Super Bowl hangover. Both teams are 5-6 and very much in the hunt for the final AFC wild card spot, but the Steelers won the first meeting, 19-16, and perhaps could be smelling a season sweep of their bitter rivals for the first time since 2008, when they won three times including the AFC title game. Ray Rice needs to get it going, otherwise Joe Flacco could be under pressure from the resurgent Steelers’ defense. Pittsburgh’s offense is starting to get in sync, especially Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, and that could be the difference-maker in this one. The pick: Steelers.
Last week: 5-8-2
Ravens -3.5, Jaguars +10, Vikings +5, Chiefs -5, Dolphins +4.5, Rams -1, Steelers +1, Buccaneers +8.5, Titans -1, Cowboys +2.5, Cardinals -2.5, Patriots +2.5, 49ers -6.5.
Upset of the Week: DOLPHINS over Panthers
Record through early games: 7-2 (Season to date: 82-84-6)
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
New Orleans (-9) at Atlanta
From No. 1 seed to No. 1 draft pick? That’s where the Falcons appear headed. The Saints are rolling, 8-2 and atop the NFC South. They squeaked past the 49ers last week and squeaked past the Falcons in Week 1, 23-17, but Atlanta is in a complete free-fall and it wouldn’t appear they have any chance to hang with New Orleans in the midst of this sorry excuse for a season. The pick: Saints.
Last week: 3-9-1
Buffalo at Pittsburgh (-3)
The Steelers are coming off the franchise’s worst defensive performance ever, but the Bills, even with E.J. Manuel returning, should cure what ails them. The pick: Steelers.
Cincinnati (-1.5) at Baltimore
This looks like the Bengals’ year, not the Ravens’. Cincy has its share of problems, especially sans Geno Atkins the rest of the way, but this has the smell of the Bengals winning a close one over the suddenly-snake-bit Ravens. The pick: Bengals.
Detroit at Chicago (pick)
A battle of two NFC North teams with a chance to make a move after the Aaron Rodgers injury, but the Bears could be buoyed by Jay Cutler’s return, especially after Josh McCown held down the fort admirably in his absence Monday Night. As long as Megatron doesn’t go off (always a possibility), the Bears should at least maintain a share of first place. The pick: Bears.
Jacksonville at Tennessee (-13)
Not only are the Jaguars 0-8, they’re only 1-7 against the spread. But their last win was over the Titans last November, 24-19, and a desperate team can sometimes be a dangerous one. Don’t expect an upset, but the 4-4 Titans aren’t worth 13 points. The pick: Jaguars.
Oakland at New York Giants (-7.5)
The Giants have a golden opportunity to turn their season around with Oakland then the Rodgers-less Packers leading up to their showdown with Dallas on Nov. 24. No sense wasting this chance. The pick: Giants.
Philadelphia at Green Bay (-1)
No Aaron Rodgers for the Pack, but Clay Matthews is back for the first time in over a month. Green Bay has to be more than just A-Rod, right? The pick: Packers.
St. Louis at Indianapolis (-9.5)
The Colts proved in the second half they have an offense without Reggie Wayne. That should carry over vs. the Kellen Clemens-led Rams. The pick: Colts.
Seattle (-5.5) at Atlanta
Seattle has been begging to be beaten, barely escaping St. Louis and Tampa Bay the last two weeks, while Atlanta has mysteriously fallen to bottom-feeder status. Still, the return of Roddy White could provide a boost in this playoff rematch. The pick: Falcons (UPSET OF THE WEEK).
Carolina at San Francisco (-6.5)
The Panthers (four straight) and 49ers (five straight) are arguably the league’s two hottest teams, but the Panthers have yet to beat any top teams. Still, this will be a physical, hard-hitting game that should be close until the end. The pick: Panthers.
Denver (-7) at San Diego
Mike McCoy’s inside knowledge of the Broncos’ offense, combined with John Fox’s absence, could help keep the Chargers in this one right down until the end. The pick: Chargers.
Houston at Arizona (-3)
Carson Palmer said the Cardinals finally have some winnable games to look forward to. Houston constitutes as one of those. Time for the Cards to make a move. The pick: Cardinals.
Dallas at New Orleans (-7)
It’s tempting to pick Dallas because they always show up when no one expects them to, but New Orleans is simply a different – and lethal – team at home. The pick: Saints.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Miami (-3) at Tampa Bay
For all of Miami’s problems and distractions, Tampa Bay has it worse. A bad year for Florida in the NFL is magnified on the national stage, but with New England and the Jets on a bye, the Fins can’t afford to let this prime opportunity to gain ground in the AFC East pass them by. The pick: Dolphins.
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Washington (-2.5) at Minnesota
The Redskins are hanging on in the NFC East after last week’s momentum-building (they hope) overtime win over the Chargers. The Vikings are hanging on to nothing after a gutwrenching loss in Dallas dropped them to 1-7. Minnesota is 0-2 against NFC East teams this season and Washington is looking for consecutive wins for the first time. If RGIII needed about half the year to round back into form, this would be the time to look for him and the Skins to make a move. Adrian Peterson had just his second 100-yard game on U.S. soil last week with 140 yards but is on pace for just 1,264 yards this season. Washington’s 21st-ranked rush defense could make or break this one. The pick: Vikings.
WEEK 9 PICKS
Last week: 6-7
Bengals -3, Falcons +8, Jets +7, Rams +3, Cowboys -10.5, Bills +4, Chargers -1, Eagles +3, Ravens -2.5, Patriots -7, Seahawks -16, Texans +3 (UPSET OF THE WEEK), Packers -11
WEEK 8 PICKS
Buffalo at New Orleans (-11.5)
The Bills have kept almost every game close, but you’d have to think the Saints are smarting from their last-second loss to the Patriots two weeks ago and are feeling fresh off their bye. Maybe this is the week the Bills finally look like the Bills, especially with Thaddeus Lewis at quarterback. The pick: Saints.
Cleveland at Kansas City (-7.5)
The Chiefs have invited some inferior teams to hang around the last couple of weeks, and the Browns have more legitimacy on offense with Jason Campbell replacing Brandon Weeden under center. There could be mounting pressure every week on Kansas City until it suffers its first loss. It may not happen here, but this one could be closer than it looks. The pick: Browns.
Dallas at Detroit (-3)
The Lions are actually just 2-6 in their last eight home games, but the Cowboys seem like a different team every other week, and are severely banged up on defense. They may not have an answer for Calvin Johnson, even if Reggie Bush isn’t ready to go. The pick: Lions.
Miami at New England (-7)
The Dolphins are probably the last real chance to give the state of Florida an NFL win in the month of October. Good luck. The Patriots have lost consecutive games just four times in the last 11 years, and New England is ready to bounce back with Gronk in tow after a tough loss to the Jets last week. The reeling Fish are a mess along the offensive line, meaning points could be at a premium on a day when they so sorely need them. New England is always a safe bet coming off a loss. The pick: Patriots.
New York Giants at Philadelphia (-5)
It’s hard to know what to expect of Michael Vick coming back off an injury, and maybe Big Blue has some sort of momentum after finally picking up its first win earlier this week. The Eagles took round one, but their offense is inconsistent – and how can you blame it when the team is shuffling quarterbacks so frequently? The pick: Giants.
San Francisco (-15.5) vs. Jacksonville in London
The 49ers are rolling and have been simply sitting on inferior teams this year. The Jaguars might have trouble matching up with the Alouettes and Argos of the CFL, even though they miraculously stepped up and gave the Broncos a game a few weeks ago. Don’t expect such a performance against San Francisco. The pick: 49ers.
New York Jets at Cincinnati (-6.5)
One has to wonder if the Jets could be emotionally spent after their big upset win over the Patriots last week, while the Bengals are winning but mostly close games, so a more comfortable win could be in order here. The pick: Bengals.
Pittsburgh (-3) at Oakland
Suddenly, here come the Steelers. Once 0-4, the Steelers could be 3-4 if Le’Veon Bell gives Ben Roethlisberger continued support in the run game. The Raiders are an enigma, and even though there have been positive signs from Terrelle Pryor, Pittsburgh looks like it may have its mojo back. The pick: Steelers.
Atlanta at Arizona (-2)
Carson Palmer says he is looking forward to the Cardinals finally having some “winnable” games on his team’s schedule. Is this one? Maybe he shouldn’t be so sure. At 2-4, the Falcons are still in it, and this is the time to get it going. The Cardinals seem like overachievers, even at 3-4. The pick: Falcons.
Washington at Denver (-12.5)
Welcome back, Mike Shanahan. 14 years, two Super Bowl titles, and an unceremonious departure that preceded the ill-fated Josh McDaniels era. The Skins should be licking their chops after putting up 45 points and facing the NFL’s worst passing defense. The Broncos should bounce back, but they have shown some cracks lately, so it will be tougher than expected. The pick: Redskins.
Green Bay (-9.5) at Minnesota
The Packers should blow the woeful Vikings out, but they are so banged up that scoring points could be somewhat of a struggle. At times, winning in the Metrodome has proven difficult for the Pack, and Adrian Peterson and Co. should be fired up to put on a better showing in primetime this week than last week, when Josh Freeman was embarrassingly bad in his Vikings debut. This may be Christian Ponder’s last stand. The pick: Vikings.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Seattle (-12) at St. Louis
What a mess for St. Louis. Sam Bradford is done for the year, so Kellen Clemens gets the nod for the Rams, who trail the Seahawks by three games in the NFC West. This is a chance for Seattle to sit on an inferior division opponent, and it’s hard to imagine they don’t take full advantage of the opportunity. The pick: Seahawks.
WEEK 5 PICKS
Buffalo at Cleveland (-4)
Because they have to… Well, it is what it is, apparently. The Browns are perfect under ex-Patriot (but is anyone really ever an EX-Patriot?) Brian Hoyer, and both teams, shockingly, are 2-2 and “in the hunt.” The Browns should get it done and lift the spirits of Clevelanders down in the dumps over last night’s Indians playoff loss, as the defense is playing well and rookie E.J. Manuel has been inconsistent. The Bills’ defense may find duplicating last week’s five-INT performance difficult, especially on a short week against a team building momentum. The pick: Browns.
WEEK 4 NFL PICKS
Thursday Night Football
San Francisco (-3.5) at St. Louis
Please, Mr. Goodell, I’m not hungry for football yet, I just ate… But I just… Okay, fine, feed me more football since I have no choice. This is the age we live in. This week’s edition of “The Game We Have to Watch Because Time Warner Was Resistant to the NFL Network”: two desperate NFC West teams hoping to avoid 1-3. Back in the day, Dana Stubblefield stood on the sidelines and proclaimed “same old sorry a** Rams!” as the 49ers built a 17-game winning streak over their rivals in the 90’s. The Rams were expected to contend, but they look bad at 1-2. The 49ers have unexpectedly also fallen flat, but they are too talented and probably too ticked off to drop behind St. Louis. Plus, tying and losing to the Rams last year had to have left a sour taste in their mouths. Even with Aldon Smith in rehab, the 49ers defense should keep the Rams’ offense at bay and Colin Kaepernick should have a bounce-back effort. The pick: 49ers.
WEEK 3 NFL PICKS
Kansas City at Philadelphia (-3.5)
In our force-fed game of the week, Andy Reid returns home to Philly to have a few cheesesteaks… and eventually coach a football game for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chefs are 2-0… great googly-moogly! Philly is 1-1 but it’s tough to really figure them out. They appear to have a major problem with their pass defense, something Alex Smith isn’t likely to exploit, but Jamaal Charles will become more of a factor every week, and in a game that figures to be close either way, you’d have to think that Reid’s motivating factor of facing his old team will be enough to give Kansas City a boost. The pick: Chiefs.