For those of you who read my week 9 picks, you will see that I went 8-5-1. The Chiefs blowing an 11 point lead in the final quarter cost me the 60% mark, but I will take a winning week. Last week had some interesting match-ups, and this week has plenty of drama. A wounded, psychologically down Patriots team travels to Miami, needing a win to get above .500. A game of craptacular proportions Cardinals vs. Lions is set for Detroit. The Rams, who scratched out a win against the Jags & come off of a bye, travel to Seattle to play a team that has been getting Super Bowl juice from the press for squeaking by the Cowboys, getting a bye and beating up on the Cardinals. Saving the best for last, the Eagles host the Cowboys on Monday Night, looking for any momentum to save their season in the shadow of TO.
BILLS (-2.5) over Chiefs
While the Chiefs do have a great rushing attack and are playing against the worst rush defense in the league, they are not that impressive themselves on defense. They fell apart defensively at the end of the Raiders game. I think that Willis McGahee is going to face a stiff defense but still run well because he is a horse. Because he will pound the defense, play action is going to be much more effective, allowing the Bills to take advantage of the holes in the KC pass defense. The Chiefs need to hold McGahee to minimal gains early and not be forced to bring up the safety for help. I also feel that the home field advantage that the Bills, Packers, and Patriots have (weather) is going to come out in full force this weekend. Precipitation and wind will be a factor this weekend.
BUCS (+1.5) over Redskins
The Redskins are 1-3 on the road this year, and they are going up against a good defense in the Bucs. Washington's defense is good too, but better against the pass than the run. The Bucs are not a passing team, and the Redskins need to stop 1st and 2nd down plays to create long 3rd down situations to force the Bucs to pass. I see this as a low scoring affair. Despite my distrust of the QB situation with the Bucs, I feel that the Bucs can grind out gains on the ground.
DOLPHINS (+3) over Patriots
The Patriots defense is still tired and still missing key players. I also wonder how they will respond after the defeat to the Colts. Look at the injury lists for the two teams. That is a big reason why I think that the ground game of the Dolphins will control the clock, wear the Pats' defense down, and score just enough to win. This excellent article on ESPN Insider made me feel that the Dolphins strength in the running game will pound at the Pats weak rushing defense. The Dolphins defense is good, and will force the Patriots to throw the ball non-stop. That is not going to keep the Patriots D on the sidelines long. This is a divisional game, anything can happen. Even if the Dolphins do not win, they will keep it close & cover.
BEARS (-12.5) over 49ers
I feel like this line should be for a Colts game, but I got burned last week by taking the 49ers & 10.5 points at home. My fear is not in the Bears winning & holding the 49ers to 7 or less, but it is in the Bears ability to score enough to cover. The 49ers are 1-9 in their last 10 games as road dogs, and they commit 2.5 turnovers/game. That should give the Bears a couple of short field situations and get them the points. I think that Cedric Benson will go nuts this game, which will set up play action against one of the worst pass defenses in football.
GIANTS (-9) over Vikings
I think that Tom Coughlin realizes what this game can do as a statement before the Eagles come to town next week. If the Giants win this game, they will be 7-2, will have at least 2 games on the Eagles, and will have the opportunity to put them away. The Vikings also have a poor pass defense that will be missing their big offseason acquisition, Fred Smoot. While I liked them last week against the Lions, it was because they were at home, it was the Lions on the road, and there was a brainless mannequin posing as a QB for the Lions. I have a strong feeling Eli Manning is going to have a huge day, 300+ yards/3 TDs.
DETROIT (-3.5) over Cardinals
I hate having to pick a team with the brainless mannequin at the helm, Joey Harrington. Harrington seems to not recognize defensive coverage schemes, and he has two QB gurus to work with each day. Roy Williams could play again this week, and here's a tip for the Cardinals: triple cover him. Harrington will not look off of him when a play is designed for Williams; let your safety cheat and grab some picks. Despite all of this disgust with Harrington the mannequin, I have to pick the Lions. Arizona cannot run the ball, are missing their no. 1 WR, and are 1-9 as road dogs. I'm willing to bet that the Lions win this because their defense forces turnovers so Harrington does not have to drive far to put them in FG range.
JACKSONVILLE (-6) over Ravens
When the Ravens are anxiously awaiting the return of Kyle Boller, you know they are done. Boller is a frat boy who ran a fast 40 at the combine. I think this is the point in the season where Jack Del Rio pushes the Jags to store away some wins. Last year, the Jags were 5-3 but finished 4-4 to wind up 9-7 and on the outside looking in. The team is a year wiser, and Byron Leftwich has grown as his TD/INT ratio has improved. This will not happen again and it starts Sunday.
Texans (+17.5) over COLTS
This line feels a bit ridiculous. On the other hand, I felt nervous with the Rams at home with 13 points a couple of weeks ago versus the Colts. I think the Colts will revert back to their early season form of not pushing too hard, giving the Edge plenty of carries and doing enough to win. Mark my words, if the Colts win a Super Bowl, they will offer the Edge a good, not great, 5 year deal, and if he gets more from elsewhere, they will let him go.
PANTHERS (-9) over NY Jets
The Jets made the game close last week because Marty decided to get super conservative in the last 10 minutes unlike the first 50. John Fox knows how to put teams away. I always think back to the NFC Championship game against the Eagles where the Panthers just chewed up clock and didn't let the Eagles touch the ball to get a rhythm going. The Jets will also be facing a better defense that will bring enough pressure on whomever is standing in the pocket for them. It is not going to be a pretty game, as the Jets O-line is pretty depleted. Does anyone realize how much the Panthers are doing without Kris Jenkins? Imagine him in the lineup. With the Jets secondary, I predict that Steve Smith will have over 125 yards and at least 1 TD. This should also be the game where Deshaun Foster starts to make his run for a healthy contract. The Panthers do need to start up a running attack if they plan on going deep into the playoffs.
Broncos (-3) over RAIDERS
Mr. Moss is questionable again, and I will keep taking the opposing teams as long as he is listed as questionable. The Broncos running game is also rolling right now, which will wear the Raiders old D-linemen down. I think this route is the one way the Broncos can beat the Colts this postseason to avenge back-to-back landslide losses. A rushing attack works against the Colts, and the Broncos have the best 1-2 punch in the NFL right now. If they can keep the game out of Jake Plummer's hands, the Broncos can beat anybody.
Rams (+6.5) over SEAHAWKS
Bulger is back, Holt is back, and Bruce should be back. Steven Jackson, who should be called "Action Jackson" from now on, has another high profile game to shine in on TV like the Jags game 2 weeks ago. With the new head coach, Jackson should see 20-25 carries this game. I expect a shootout, and the Rams to win, not just cover. No Mike Martz means a more balanced offensive attack for the Rams compared to the first match up. I saw a Moneyline for the Rams at (+230), and I would be tempted to split my bets if I were going to bet money on the Rams. Like $25 with the points and $25 on the Moneyline. This line seems too high for a division game with their wacky ex-head coach out of the picture.
FALCONS (-9) over Packers
The Packers have no ground game, have no receivers, have a bad defense and are staring at a scary off-season situation. Doesn't last year's 1st round pick look dumb now with all of the problems the Packers have everywhere? What happens if the Packers get the number 1 pick and have to decide between picking USC's Goldenboy quarterback and jettisoning their 22 year old former 1st rounder, Aaron Rodgers or keeping Rodgers, picking USC's Goldenboy running back and being 2nd guessed for eternity?
Browns (+8) over STEELERS
After last week's skin of their teeth win by the Steelers, I am going to pick the Browns and the points. I see this being a tight game as the Browns have played a lot of teams tough. Besides the Cincy game, the Browns have not been blown out of a game this year. I think a lot of people have to take back the comments "they don't ask him to do too much" that minimize what Big Ben gives the Steelers? Sure, they do not ask him to throw much, but he needs to hit those throws to keep defenses honest and not stack the line. Big Ben buys time and evades the rush to give his great receiving corps time to get open. Parker and Bettis are hurt also, so it could be upset city for the Browns.
Cowboys (+3) over EAGLES
This game brings with it so much baggage. Dallas can claim a sweep on the Eagles and go to 3-1 in the division & 6-3 overall with their Eagles games behind them. Dallas is getting back Julius Jones, is coming off of a bye, and has a great defense that now is adjusted to the 3-4. Parcells can smell the blood in the water. On the other side of the ball, Philly is desperate. They need a win more than anyone else this week. Donovan McNabb needs a big game to show that he is moving on for real. Philly will blitz the Cowboys as much as they can, but the injuries to Philly's defense are going to limit the pressure they can bring. Philly's secondary is not playing as well as years past, especially former 1st round pick Lito Sheppard. Philly is also missing their center who will be important in defending the Cowboys' blitzes up the middle. I just think the 'run' is over for the Eagles; the window is closed without TO.
I said before this year started that I thought Philly was set for a fall. They mirror the Patriots so closely (excluding the rings), and success (free agency) and time (injuries) can wear on a team. Reporters have also stated that some players were silent because some took TO's side about the contract issue. Some people view the Brian Westbrook extension as an attempt to save face. Why would the Eagles sign a 5 foot 8 RB to 5 more years when he doesn't produce or carry the load like a big money back? The contract gives $25 mil to a guy whose biggest season had him carry the ball 177 times. Look at the Eagles since McNabb's caeer began, he has carried the team offensively with virtually no help. While in college, I said that the Eagles should draft a top flight WR to help McNabb out. Eagles fans in denial claimed that "Trash and Stinkston" were good enough, but their arguments were hollow. The Eagles scouts goofed when they drafted Freddie Mitchell, but let's look at players they passed up to draft Mitchell and other 'depth' picks prior to trading for TO:
2001: Reggie Wayne, Chad Johnson, Chris Chambers, Steve Smith, T.J. Housh...zadeh and Justin McCareins
2002: Antwaan Randle El, Deion Branch, Antonio Bryant, and David Givens
2003: Anquan Boldin
The names on this list would have provided the Eagles with a Super Bowl MVP, 2 Pro Bowlers, or a big cog in the Colts' machine. They never would have had to trade for the diva, and instead focus on importing a running back for the Eagles Super Bowl run. They neglected a need for so long that they could not wait on developing in-house and had to import a dangerous personality. The state of their offense is their own doing.