Sunday, September 29, 2013

NFL Picks - Week 4

Season Record: 31-18

I had an ugly 9-7 record last week with huge misses with the Giants, Niners, and Steelers getting housed.  The Atlanta-Miami game met expectations, and Cincinnati showed a lot of fight, scoring 20 unanswered points on the Packers.  We’re only three weeks in, but it’s pretty clear how this season is going to go for a lot of teams. 

The good – Seattle, Denver, New Orleans
The bad – Jacksonville, NY Giants, Minnesota, Pittsburgh

Seattle and Denver look like the clear leaders of their conferences, and if New Orleans’ defense is for real, they’re definitely in the discussion.  Jacksonville is clearly the worst team in the league, the Giants are a horrible mess on both sides of the ball, Minnesota looks lost, and Pittsburgh is far removed from being a championship contender.

What will we learn this week?

Cardinals @ Bucs
Even though I’m glad to see the Freeman era end, I don’t believe Mike Glennon is the answer either.  He gets his first chance to prove me wrong today.  Both Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are questionable.  Their absences would make the Bucs virtually weaponless in the passing game.  Doug Martin will be called on a lot regardless.  Arizona doesn’t put a ton of pressure on the passer (5 sacks through 3 games), so that should work well in the rookie’s favor.  The Bucs are a couple of stupid plays from being 2-1, so their 0-3 isn’t as ugly as the rest of the league’s winless teams.  I expect the Bucs defense to be stout and help the rookie not have to get into a TD matching contest.  Assuming, Jackson or Williams plays, look for Mike Sullivan to make use of Glennon’s arm with a few deep balls.  Bucs by 10.   

Ravens @ Bills
This is a big game for BaltimoreBuffalo is really beat up on defense and ranks near the bottom of the league in yards allowed despite having faced teams that haven’t exactly lit it up against other teams so far (New England 19th, Carolina 25th, and Jets 12th in yards per game).  Baltimore is near the bottom of the league in that category thanks to that stinker against the Browns and the defense and special teams scoring last week against Houston.  With Ray Rice reportedly ready to go, I’ll take the champs to win the time of possession and the battle on the scoreboard. 

Bengals @ Browns
I like the Bengals, but I don’t like that they’re without Leon Hall, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Reggie Nelson in this one.  Even if Terence Newman is able to handle Josh Gordon, the Bengals don’t have an answer for Jordan Cameron.  Cincinnati was able to come back with 20 unanswered points to beat Green Bay last week, and I think they’re going to need that kind of focused effort to win this one.  I’m taking Cincinnati, but I don’t feel great about it.  The favored team has won only one of the last twelve matchups between these two. 

Bears @ Lions
Chicago enters this one as the undefeated division leaders, but Detroit is a late TD at Arizona away from being 3-0 themselves.  The Lions will miss Nate Burleson, but Reggie Bush looks ready to go this week.  Look for both he and Joique Bell to see a ton of touches.  The Bears still score defensive TDs, but overall, the Lions are playing better defense so far.  Matthew Stafford has thrown 5 TDs and 2 INTs in his two home matchups against the Bears, so he hasn’t exactly imploded against the opportunistic defense.  I’ll take the home team to even things up in the division.

Giants @ Chiefs
I can’t come up with a reason to take the Giants in this one.  They can’t run the ball or protect Eli.  That’s definitely not going to get any easier against the Chiefs in Arrowhead.  To me it’s as easy as this – KC leads’ the NFL with a +9 turnover differential, and the Giants are the game’s worst at -9.  Those numbers will surely even out as the season progresses, but I don’t foresee an instant turnaround by both teams.  The Giants can’t stop the run (27th most yards per game) and were lit up by DeAngelo Williams for 120 yards on 23 carries (5.2 avg).  If they had trouble containing Williams, they’re really going to struggle with Jamaal Charles.  Look for another boring Alex Smith-led win and a lot of dirt on the back of Eli’s jersey. 

Steelers @ Vikings
Flip a coin.  Both of these teams stink so far.  Pittsburgh can’t run the ball or allow Roethlisberger to set his feet for more than two seconds.  Minnesota couldn’t hold onto a lead if it came with handles.  Both defenses are giving up far too many points.  I’m taking the Steelers simply because I believe in Ben more than Christian. 

Colts @ Jaguars
If the Colts were playing just about any other team this week, I might think they’d be in store for a letdown.  That won’t matter here, as the Colts should be able to get a good audition from Trent Richardson this week with Ahmad Bradshaw sidelined.  It will probably be boring and one of the lower scoring games of the week, but the Colts get the W. 

Seahawks @ Texans
I’m sure they’ll lose eventually, but I can’t go against the Seahawks just because they’re on the road at the Texans.  After basically walking through their week one win at Carolina, over the last 8 quarters of Seattle football, there has been no question as to who was the dominant team on the field.  Like San Francisco, Houston likes to establish the run, and aside from some Kaepernick runs, the Niners were shut down.  Schaub isn’t Kaepernick.   Houston got housed at Baltimore last week, and didn’t look dominant in beating San Diego or Tennessee.  They’ll need to be dominant against Seattle, and I can’t see it happening.  If this is going to be a special season for Seattle, they have to win games like this.  The best team in the NFL moves to 4-0.

Jets @ Titans
Jake Locker played well in a loss at Houston and shined in last week’s win against San Diego, but I don’t think he’ll be consistent enough in the passing game to beat a strong Jets defense.  New York likes to run the ball, and I think they’ll be able to do so successfully against Tennessee.  If Geno Smith can quit throwing the ball to the other team (6 INTs so far), I like New York’s chances of winning an ugly road game.

Eagles @ Broncos
After two home stinkers, how eager will the Eagles be to run the fast paced offense at Mile High?  Unless Peyton Manning just has such an un-Peyton game, I don’t see Philly having a chance.  The Broncos offense is in midseason form and is pretty much unstoppable.  Philly’s defense will be outclassed in this one.  If you like points, you should see a lot of them here.  Denver scores 40. 

Redskins @ Raiders
Washington can’t possibly lose this one right?  They’d be 0-4 heading into their bye week with a road trip to Dallas next on the schedule.  Can’t happen right?  Wrong.  If Terrelle Pryor plays, I like Oakland to win.  They got beat pretty bad on MNF against the Broncos, but the Raiders never gave up.  If RGIII gets off to another slow start, it could be too late once again.  With Washington unable to stop anyone, they can’t be eager to go up against the versatile Pryor.  The DC sports talk airwaves will be on fire Monday morning.   

Cowboys @ Chargers
This is where Dallas usually gives you a stinker – off a strong home win against a team they should beat with a chance to get some separation within the division.  The Chargers have played three three-point games, so they’re staying in ball games.  I like them to do more than stay in this one.  Philip Rivers is off to a hot start (8 TD, 1 INT), and Dallas has surrendered a combined 7 TDs to Alex Smith, Eli, and Bradford.  I think Rivers will be the better QB in this one, and the Chargers win by, yes, 3 points. 

Patriots @ Falcons
New England is a very fortunate 3-0 so far.  Both the Bills and Jets had their chances to knock them off, and the Bucs game was a lot closer than the score indicated.  Danny Amendola isn’t ready yet, and it doesn’t appear that Gronk is ready to go either.  Atlanta is 1-2 but was a last minute TD from beating a Miami team whose bandwagon everyone is stumbling over themselves to get on.  I like the Falcons to get right at home and make some big plays against the Patriots. 

Dolphins @ Saints
In what should be the season’s best MNF game so far, I believe Drew Brees and company will put up just enough points to outdo the upstart Dolphins.  He had an impressive 342 yards and 3 TDs in last week’s win over Arizona that I thought might have been setting up as a bit of a trap.  They’re rolling on defense too, holding all opponents to 17 or fewer points so far.  Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins earn more respect and fans in this one, but the Saints will be the undefeated of the two come Tuesday. 

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