Last week was a 10-3 record for my picks. Not bad overall. I missed on New Orleans, St. Louis and Indianapolis.
– New Orleans is finally looking like the team we thought they would be, but by running the ball as opposed to throwing it. Playing on the road and beating Carolina in primetime was a big win and should catapult them into division title with Carolina struggling and Atlanta and Tampa Bay having their issues on the offensive line.
– St. Louis went out and beat San Francisco. Very impressive. No way I was making that pick any other way though. It was a hard-fought win for the Rams, but it’s probably more telling of the issues San Francisco is dealing with. Their offense lacks and identity and their defense isn’t necessarily a game-changing unit without Aldon Smith rushing the passer and Navorro Bowman manning the middle with Patrick Willis.
– I am ashamed I picked the Giants. They just don’t have the talent on their roster to make a playoff run, much less beat Andrew Luck on his current tear.
The byes this week are Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England, San Diego and Washington. The gif this week comes from Houston. Probably would have wanted the ball over taking a photo, but that’s just me.
Thursday, 11/6 – 8:25 pm ET
Cleveland Browns 5-3 @ Cincinnati Bengals 5-2-1
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals
The “Battle of Ohio” is now a battle for first in the AFC North. How many people thought that would be the case this season? Cleveland has been earning tough wins, but, to be fair, they have been against the likes of Tampa Bay, Oakland, Jacksonville and Tennessee. There are two wins against Pittsburgh and New Orleans thrown in there, but those were home games in Cleveland. Cincinnati has had their own issues, but have been able to right the ship a bit after getting blown out by New England and Indianapolis with a disappointing tie with Carolina in between. I said this in my AFC North season preview and I’ll say it again, Cleveland will win a couple games against the AFC North, including Cincinnati. However, I expect Cleveland to catch Cincinnati in Cleveland. Tonight, they are facing a Bengals team that hasn’t lost a regular season home game since late 2012. I’m taking Cincinnati as I expect them to feature rookie Jeremy Hill on the ground and play an aggressive, attacking defense that frustrates Cleveland’s Brian Hoyer. My “shot-in-the-dark” prediction for this one is that we see Johnny Manziel after halftime, assuming the Cincinnati defense controls the Cleveland offense.
Sunday, 11/9 – 1:00 pm ET
Kansas City Chiefs 5-3 @ Buffalo Bills 5-3
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs
Buffalo is still quietly putting together wins while Kansas City has worked their way back into playoff consideration themselves. Aside from the obvious playoff implications between two teams likely fighting for wildcard spots, we should also get a sense of where these two teams really are this week. Kansas City is my pick due to their team talent and their ability rush the passer, but Buffalo isn’t necessarily outmatched anywhere with an underrated defense of their own and an offense that is emphasizing getting the ball to their playmakers like rookie Sammy Watkins. Traveling hasn’t led to very favorable results this season for the Chiefs, but I think they have a defense capable of limiting Kyle Orton and company while finding ways to move the ball offensively. I’m taking Kansas City, but it should be a close game.
Miami Dolphins 5-3 @ Detroit Lions 6-2
Prediction: Detroit Lions
Miami has been playing lights out over the past three weeks with their defense playing at a tremendous level and their offense playing effectively behind quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Lamar Miller in the run game. There is a lot to like about them and they are a team with a very good chance of making the playoffs if they continue this level of play. Detroit is in a similar situation where they have been able to pull out a couple games against Atlanta and New Orleans behind clutch play from Matthew Stafford, despite Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush missing time. Both are expected back, which makes Stafford much more dangerous, even against Miami. Detroit has learned how to win without their best player offensively. What happens when he comes back? I like Detroit to win a tough game.
Dallas Cowboys 6-3 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1-8
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
We can’t simply attribute this pick to “it’s the Jaguars” anymore because Jacksonville has been playing pretty well as of late. Blake Bortles at quarterback is a very real threat for opposing defenses, particularly if he stops throwing the ball to the defense, and the Jacksonville defense is playing tough and fast. The emergence of Denard Robinson at running back has been huge for the Jaguars as well making them a dangerous team as the season progresses. Dallas is coming off a loss to a very good Arizona team where backup Brandon Weeden was awful. Arizona, like I said, is a very good team, but you would hope to see more out of Weeden after everyone pointed out how he had spent some much time with the starters in practice and training camp while Tony Romo recovered from his offseason back surgeries. Now, Romo is practicing, but I think Dallas has the skill to win this week without him. Jacksonville will make it a game regardless, but a run game like Dallas’s will be too much for the Jaguars. Dallas doesn’t run an offense that blows teams out, but they will control the game although the score may be close.
San Francisco 49ers 4-4 @ New Orleans Saints 4-4
Prediction: New Orleans Saints
Are the Saints back? What is happening in San Francisco? These aren’t the questions we expected to be asking when we saw this game on the docket this offseason, but nonetheless, we are faced with two .500 teams who still have the talent to make a Super Bowl run. That said, I had a feeling this was coming for the 49ers. Their defense is in a state of flux and their offense just can’t seem to get moving and every week seems to be centered around a different “identity”. The Saints, on the other hand, have found a new identity behind Mark Ingram and the run game. I love watching Ingram run and he can make a real difference in the Saints’ season. Beating New Orleans at home is already a tall task, but trying to beat them with a balance between run and pass that we haven’t really seen from New Orleans before makes this even harder for the 49ers. This won’t be a blowout, but I like New Orleans.
Tennessee Titans 2-6 @ Baltimore Ravens 5-4
Prediction: Baltimore Ravens
Zach Mettenberger is getting another start at quarterback for the Titans and while I like his long-term prospects, I can’t believe in him against a Ravens team with their backs against the wall a bit. Baltimore sits in last place in the AFC North and 0-2 against Cincinnati already this season. If they want to have any chance in the division, they need this one. Tennessee doesn’t have the run game or defensive play to matchup with Baltimore. I do believe we will see a breakout game for wide receiver Justin Hunter in Tennessee, but I’m not holding my breath that Tennessee can go on the road and beat the Ravens.
Pittsburgh Steelers 6-3 @ New York Jets 1-8
Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger has thrown six touchdowns in the last two weeks and now he gets to face off with the New York Jets and their horrendous secondary. I’m taking Pittsburgh.
Atlanta Falcons 2-6 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-7
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons
I have to admit, I didn’t expect Atlanta to play so well in London before their bye last week. They still lost the game, allowing Detroit to storm back with 22 unanswered points, but the first half was impressive. I think Atlanta has a lot of talent, but are lacking in key areas. Their defense can’t stop the run and a lack of pass rush puts too much pressure on the secondary. Atlanta’s offensive line is awful and their run game lacks conviction, in part, from the lines troubles. Tampa Bay isn’t much better though, struggling in many of the same facets plus quarterback. Now the Buccaneers plan to got back to Josh McCown at quarterback. I don’t think it will be enough. Atlanta has enough firepower to take advantage of the Buccaneers defense and I don’t think McCown will be able to capitalize on Atlanta’s issues defensively.
Sunday, 11/9 – 4:05 pm ET
Denver Broncos 6-2 @ Oakland Raiders 0-8
Prediction: Denver Broncos
Sunday, 11/9 – 4:25 pm ET
St. Louis Rams 3-5 @ Arizona Cardinals 7-1
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals
Arizona is good… very good. Their defense is capable of dominating games and their offense is capable of winning a lot of different ways. Not to mention, they have worked their way to a 7-1 record with many key players dealing with injuries and now they are getting healthier. That one loss? At Denver. Not bad. I love how hard the Rams are playing and it’s impressive that they have beaten Seattle and San Francisco, but I just don’t see them doing it again to Arizona.
New York Giants 3-5 @ Seattle Seahawks 5-3
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks
Seattle is playing at home and New York just don’t have the playmakers to overcome Seattle’s talent or crowd noise.
Sunday, 11/9 – 8:30 pm ET
Chicago Bears 3-5 @ Green Bay Packers 5-3
Prediction: Green Bay Packers
Nobody knows how good Chicago really is. Their offense should be unstoppable. Seriously. And their defense is a shell of the “Monsters of the Midway” who used to roam the grounds of Soldier Field. Green Bay is coming off a bye after losing to New Orleans, but I don’t think their defeat in New Orleans in primetime is anything to worry about. I’m taking Aaron Rodgers against the Bears at Lambeau.
Monday, 11/10 – 8:30 pm ET
Carolina Panthers 3-5-1 @ Philadelphia Eagles 6-2
Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia is turning to Mark Sanchez at quarterback with Nick Foles out for the season. While some teams would drop-off considerably with their backup in for the long-term (I’m looking at you Indianapolis post-Manning, pre-Luck – aka Curtis Painter), I like Sanchez in this spot. He has the mindset to win big games after winning some big ones with the Jets, and he has the physical tools to succeed in a Philly offense that makes the quarterback’s job easier. LeSean McCoy and the run game is getting back on track for Philadelphia and I expect Sanchez to actually play very well for the remainder of the season. Carolina is a team that can’t seem to take a step forward. Even their wins (or ties) feel like they are backing into success. They are too talented to fold, but I don’t expect them to win this week and will likely flutter around .500 the rest of the season, maybe lower, unless they can show something big offensively or defensively.