Last week 5-8
"America's pastime is Baseball, but in our hearts its really Football!"
The average American
Analyzing the disaster in which I call my prognostications of last week, I feel as if I am a medical examiner part taking in an autopsy report. Instead of finding the cause of death being of natural causes, there is suspicion of foul play at work here. If we learned anything this week, is that don't underestimate 4-6 teams backed into a corner, but instead respect them as if they are the silent assassins who wait in earnest to exploit your one weakness before striking. I would be digressing if I were to say what I have witnessed of last weeks results and the upsets that went with them, were nothing more than a conspiracy to ensure fans stay interested in the already muddled play-off picture and to prolong further plotted story lines for the mere pleasure of milking it for everything it is worth. Then again I would also be making excuses for the fact this was a terrible week to be a prognosticator, in fact I am now in what I call being guilty of not going with my opposite intuitive instincts, but instead rationalizing too much of the intangibles and playing it too conservative. Most of the games I lost, there was always another instinctual feeling that I had ignored, and for the most part with the exception of the Minnesota and Greenbay game, (which by the way was one of the weirdest games I have watched all year) I predicted them correct as I was considering my final decisions. I know what you are going to say, but I must confess that there is a method to my madness, and like a mad scientist that I am, will be returning to that lab to concoct another anecdote of this weeks up coming games and going back to my old methods. This time though the Gloves are coming off.
Hard to dismiss the Lions 5 turnovers against the Bucs last week, especially when you consider they dominated almost every other statistical category in the game. I guess you can say survival of the fittest was on display when the Lions ate their own and returned to their old ways of losing games they should win. Now the Lions are facing a Packers team coming off a wacky game in which they came from 16 down to tie the game. (Oh yeah Bills fans, that was Matt Flynn who lead the charge, and is now the starter.) What is interesting to note here is the last time Matt Flynn played the Lions, he threw for 480-yards and six touchdowns, which pretty much led to him signing a multi-million dollar contract with the Seahawks. Funny how sometimes the possible scenario playing out to repeat history again is contemplated, and the implications it would represent should that happen again would drive sports media pundits into a frenzy. Also to add to the Lions bulletin board fodder, Packers Josh Sitton just called out the Lions team as being dirt and Scumbags and other choice words for coach Schwartz, it is easy to see that there is no love lost between these two teams. If the Lions want to change their history, their culture, then they have to find away to beat teams that are not as talented, and find that killer instinct to finish them off. A must win over a divisional opponent. Lions
The Cowboys victory over the Giants this past Sunday has put them back into the playoff conversation again by having a share of the division lead. Now with the Raiders hopes all but gone are the visiting team. Even though I think McCoins performance against the Titans was indicative that he might end up the indisputable starter, the Raiders defense is what needs to improve, and certainly when it came time to show up last Sunday, they simply failed to stop the Titans last drive, which resulted in the loss. Tony Romo is playing well, and now being at home I expect the Cowboys to take care of business to stay in command of their division. Cowboys
Ben Roethlisberger's performance as of late should not come as a surprise, especially in Cleveland (more on that in just a bit) now bringing their team to 5-6 and talking about playoffs for that final wild card spot, the Steelers are feeling pretty good about themselves these days. So it should go without saying that their chances of going into Baltimore and repeating the same feat should have the odds in their favor, right? If you also consider the Ravens, recent awakening and their identical record, as well as allowing the fewest points by their defense in 4 years, then a case can be made that not only having the home field advantage in this contest is an advantage, but that the offense is starting to score points, and they stand a good chance of winning this match-up. With all considerations aside both of these teams are evenly matched, with Pittsburg's Offense, and the Ravens Defense. After last week's win over the Jets, Ravens psychological make up has evolved from a team suffering Super bowl hangover to one who is eying the final stretch to make things even more interesting in the already convoluted AFC playoff race. Ravens
Putting my faith in The Browns last week was something that I compare to when you lend a good friend money, with the promise that he or she is going to pay you back, because not only do you believe they will, but you also believe you are doing a good thing. Now here I am again, with that same old friend coming back asking me to lend them some more money, even though they haven't paid me back yet and are even more desperate than before as their debts are piling up.
"Now don't pay heed to temptation, for his hands are so cold You gotta keep the Devil, keep him on down in the hole"
The Wire theme song reference to note might be all I need to know that I am still not crazy about picking Cleveland again. Out of all the games to lose, Cleveland failed to show any spark in their game against the Steelers despite a 214 yard receiving effort from Josh Gordon which set a team record, and aside from having a decent defense, losing Campbell sucked the life out of the Browns as well as any hopes of beating any teams past Sunday. Cleveland's woes continue and without a quarterback that can consistently put up points it is hard to win anything. Jacksonville on the other hand is showing signs of improvement, but is traveling out of their southern comfort and may find themselves regressing to their old ways. This game is a toss up, not very much to like either way, if one were to pick against Cleveland and the Jaguars lose, then you are left cursing Cleveland again, so you just can't win either way. However for the sake of the argument, Weeden, with a week of practice under his belt, will get the start, and have a better game, so will Cleveland's defense which will make the difference. Browns
The Titans @ The Colts
Ryan Fitzpatrick's comeback was reminiscent of the days when he was the back up to Carson Palmer a few years back, leading a final drive for the game winning score in the last seconds of the game, was clutch. Now faced with having to go on the road and take on the Colts, it will not get any easier. The Colts having been beaten in every phase of the game against the Cardinals last week and having their weaknesses exposed, I guess you can say the honeymoon may be over for Luck. Also factor in the injuries to their receivers, (not including Reggie Wayne) and you can begin to see why this team is starting to struggle as of late. However at 7-4, it will not be all doom and gloom, and they will regroup and as they have the home field advantage to restore that once shattered confidence. Colts
The Bears problem is something Bills fans had to go through for a number years and can relate to not being able to stop the Run. With no pass rush, and an aging core, then it probably will not be a surprise if the Bears rank dead last in that category by seasons end. Add to the growing agony that they now have to travel to Minnesota and face Adrian Peterson, the prospects of him having a 300-yard game seems like a nightmare waiting to happen. The Bears however are playing well on Offense and have enough pieces on that side of the ball to be confident that what they need to address in the off season will be their defense and with a free agent or two and a good draft this team could be a legit contender on 2014. However for the sake of this game, the Bears need to keep scoring points to offset their poor defense, something that has not been the bears hallmark from years past. Minnesota on the other hand, despite Peterson's efforts, are playing like Prince in high heels, who just suddenly become stricken with dementia in a brothel house and can't find the way out. If Minnesota just played a simplified game with out having to rely on Ponder, protect the ball, control the clock with the ground game then they stand a good chance of winning. Chicago's playoff hopes is still on the line here, and will have to play with urgency to pull this one out. Bears
The Dolphins @ The Jets
Deep sigh! The story here for the Jets is Geno, Geno, Geno and Geno, and well, his horrible play. When one see's his facial expressions sitting on the bench alone like a sad puppy that is in search of his master, then one can't help feel pity for the guy. He either is in need of a consoling friend, or a talisman to get him over the hump. Considering Geno is pretty much killing the Jets chances for this season, what other options do the Jets have at this point, other than go to Matt Simms? The fact Ryan is sticking with Geno may either be telling that he simply believes in his young QB or he simply does not care for the simple reason he may get sacked after the season. I almost willing to bet in the back of Ryan's mind there is much regret in how he sabotaged Sanchez's season by exposing him to his injury in the preseason. Yes I know Sanchez was not playing very well, (and the Butt jokes aside) but at least he would have been a lot better than what Smith has provided so far. The Dolphins have to be somewhat pleased in the way they played against Carolina for most of the game, but unhappy about how they weren't able to finish. That being said I still have to say that the Jets defensive line is among the best, and the Dolphins will have a hard time trying to protect Ryan Tannenhill so that he can settle down to play his game. Jets
The Cardinals @ The Eagles
The battle of the birds! Eagles home record is nothing to hang your hat on, and now coming off a bye week a lot of questions remain for this team, and the one most common is can the Eagles continue their overachieving story this season in order to take control of the NFC East? Upon closer examination, the Eagles at home is not an automatic win, considering they have only won one game so far this season, also factor in that the teams they have beaten so far all have losing records, with the exception of Green Bay, thanks in large part to their dubious tied game result this past Sunday. The real story is going to be how they play the rest of the season with 3 out of 5 final games at home, starting with the Cardinals. The Eagles are 1st over all in Rushing yards and 9th in the pass, and thus much of their success has come from their offense. Also add in the Nick Foles performance of not turning the ball over, and their exotic read option offense and the assumption is that Nick Foles is going to carry this team the rest of the way. The Eagles defense however is ranked dead last against the pass, and 21st against the run and that is where teams with strong passing skills have been able to ground the high-flying Eagles this year. Now come Carson Palmer playing lights out football, and then you can also begin to see that Arizona will pose as a real test for the Eagles, and knowing the implications for Arizona, who are not thought of as being a good road team, coming into a hostile environment only exacerbates that perception, to the point that is becomes obvious to the casual observer this is an easy pick, and the advantage is the Eagles. With that being said, I still assert that this is a different Cardinals team, who are much better than the teams Philly faced so far, and will be in play off mode in order to keep pace with the 49ers for that Wild Card spot. This is probably the toughest game to predict, and probably will be decided by a field goal or less. Cardinals
The Buccaneers ability to stop the run has been this teams strength all year, and now winners of three in a row, they also should start to feel pleased with the maturity and poise of QB Mike Glennon, who has only thrown 1 interception in the last 6 games. Still there is a lot of work to be done on this team before considering them a legit contender, this year however at least The Buccaneers are not the mattress fire that started off their season. The Panthers on the other side, having coming from behind to Beat Miami has proven that as the wins pile up so does this teams confidence. Considering the importance of this game being a divisional opponent, and then facing the Saints in a away and home match-ups in a matter of two weeks, then a realistic case can be made that the Panthers have a good shot at winning their division, and possibly being the 2nd seed if Saints lose against Seattle, and the Panthers can sweep the Saints. However, if both teams remain unbeaten at home, after playing each other such as splitting the series, then the possibility of having 12-4 records only complicates things going forward, which makes every game important in this point in time of the season. Still for this game Panthers know the score, and are not looking past the Buccaneers. Panthers
Even though we all know Brady is a great Quarterback, and the Patriots are a good team, there is no need to go further pontificating their already over-sized confidence, especially considering the worst team in Football right now, "The Texans," who probably will be Changing their GM, The head Coach, and drafting a QB as the number one pick in 2014, know this game is a mismatch by a mile. For the Patriots, it will be like picking up a tramp stamp when last call is announced at a local hole in the wall. No contest! Besides, Andre Johnson thinks his team sucks so I am going to have to agree with him on this one! Patriots
The Falcons @ The Bills
The Bills, ah yes, the once famed moniker "The Big Bad Bills" once coined by a Sports Illustrated writer accompanied by a great cover from the 90's had the Big Bad Bills on it along with J. Schrader (Raiders QB at the time) getting his faced wrenched around. Ah yes the memories are still vivid like yesterday, but today's Bills I would argue are getting close to being nasty again, and I would think if Matt Ryan had any sense he would do well just out of necessity and for personal preservation purposes. that if he doesn't want his head to be turned as if it were on a swivel stick, then he should take extra precaution to be aware of his surroundings at all times. The Bills defense is now on pace to leading the league in sacks, and are again respectable and keeping the team in almost every game they have played this year. One wonders had they had a consistent QB starting as opposed to three different rookies, then one can see that this team is actually better than their current record indicates. Also throw in to boot that the Bills are actually coming off their bye week with everyone healthy, and then you can start to sense optimism again. Sunday's game might be a preview of what this team will start to look like in the future, and then some with a few surprises. The Falcons on the other hand, are anything but the team they were last year, and have been crashing ever since their week three defeat in Miami. The defense and the multiple injuries they have suffered is just part of the story, add to that the pre season infusion of youth, and less veteran presence then put those two together and you have a recipe of crow soup that is a week left over untouched in the fridge. It is one of those food options that even if one is starving, you open the refrigerator door, stare at the pot, because you are hungry and are actually considering satisfying your hunger, but instead you just can't get your self to do it, as the smell becomes unbearable, so you close the door and elect to have a barley sandwich instead. Also consider that the Bills have played terrible in Toronto since the exhibition games started there, and to add that Atlanta is a dome team, then this game would represent Atlanta's one and only best chance this season for another win. Chances of that happening are as equal to Bon Jovi purchasing the Bills as was rumored in a recent story that is conspicuous at best, especially as it is mentioned in the same week that the Bills will be playing in Toronto. If anything desperation to stay relevant again by manufactured headlines for the sake of a PR ploy and, for no other reason there were not many other stories to report in what was otherwise considered a slow week for the local sports media outlets, then common sense would tell us it is not even worth giving any more credibility to it. Bills
The Rams @ The 49ers
The Rams upset victory last week, has put teams on notice that when you play them at home that they simply can not be overlooked. The strength of this team is their defensive and offensive lines. Throw in the performance of Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, and then on defense their rookie Alec Ogletree, and this team is actually better than their record. However without their starting QB, and other injuries sustained, it is hard to imagine this team going anywhere this season. This week they travel to San Francisco to face the 49ers who are coming off a dominating performance on the road of the Washington Redskins on Monday night. Sure it's a short week for the 49ers but they are playing for survival, as they need to keep pace with every one else in their division to even have a shot at the playoffs. The Rams will be playing out of their element although they still have a shot at an upset; the odds are not in their favor in achieving that objective. 49ers
The Broncos @ The Chiefs
Why after last week's Chiefs defeat against the San Diego Chargers, am I for some unknown reason recalling a certain tirade years ago of Dennis Green? "But they are who we THOUGHT they were! And we let 'em off the hook! It is starting to look like that maybe Kansas City surprise season was too good to be true. The Denver Broncos after an impressive loss against the Patriots, come into Kansas to face a reeling Chiefs team who have also been victims of an equally impressive loss. The difference is, Alex Smith is not in the same conversation as Tom Brady or Payton Manning, but proved on Sunday that he was capable of putting up some points as well. Sitting at 9-2, the Chiefs with injuries to Tamba Hali And Justin Houston has got to be concerning, and although would not be the end of the world for the Chiefs to lose this contest, the problem is it is against their division foe who would decidedly have control over the division with only 5 games remaining. This game has to be a must win if the Chiefs expect to have any hope for a playoff run, and must have an out of the box solution to find their swagger back on defense if they expect to stop one of the games greatest QB's Payton Manning. Denver knows the implications, and has the advantage despite losing to New England in over time this past Sunday. The one aspect to the Broncos weakness is their inability to defend the pass, thus will try to disguise this deficiency by playing more zone, which is something Alex Smith can exploit. Not sure what to like here, but a wounded animal sometimes is the most dangerous when trying to put it out of its misery. On second thought, when you consider these two teams records, and the teams they both have yet to face, clearly the Broncos have the easier schedule, but not by much. Still I suspect the Chiefs finding that extra gear, that special teams play, that turn over, or that buried arrowhead that points in the Chiefs direction that pulls off the upset at home, however for all practical measures and to play it conservative I will say Broncos
The Bengals @ The Chargers
The Bengals now coming off a bye to face a hot quarter back is going to be in a must win situation if they expect to stay in the playoff hunt. If Phillip Rivers continues his hot hand, it is hard to imagine Andy Dalton going toe to toe to match his intensity, given that he has been inconsistent all year, not to mention the injuries the Bengals have on Defense. On the flip side, even though San Diego beat Kansas City in Kansas city, I am not so inclined to automatically assume that they will continue with their high octane offense at home, as evidenced when they lost most of their games to lesser opponents this season, then it stands to reason after coming off an emotional hard fought win in Kansas city that they will not be able to repeat or match that intensity again. Chargers
The Giants @ Washington
After losing to the Cowboys this past Sunday, the Giants have to feel like their season has taken a U turn from the improbable come back in which to over come a 0-6 start seemed like anything is possible scenario, to now of one being of evaporated myths that was eviscerated by its most hated rivalry is a realty that sometimes hits us square between the eyes. Even though the Giants are playing well, there is a sense in my inner self that Washington somehow finds a way to put things together and wins this game. This is my throw away game! Redskins
The Saints @ The Seahawks
Considering that the Seahawks have not lost a game at home since December of 2011, and the last time the Saints played there, was a game that is simply not talked about in New Orleans. If anybody remembers Marshawn Lynch in beast mode on a specific play where he ran 67 yards in a punishing effort, then it is easy to see why the Saints never want to talk about that game again. This game probably represents the best match-ups of the week, as the number 1 playoff seed is at stake, and both teams know that having the home field advantage through out the playoffs is something that gives both of them the best chance to getting to the Superbowl. However looking at the remaining games on both teams schedule, then it is also easy to see that the Margin of error for both teams is very small, considering the records and the teams they have yet to face. Seattle having the stigma that they have not been a very good road team is something that they proven are changing, as well as New Orleans. That being said when the dust settles, I still think Seattle wins the home field advantage, for the simple fact, they don't have to face either the Saints or the Panthers twice, who New Orleans has to be thinking about when it comes down to contemplation of possible scenarios. It is easier to see the Seahawks as well having just two more road games, losing just one more game and finishing the season at say 14 - 2 based on having the last two games at home. Considering this weeks news of Walter Thurmond's Suspension as well as Brandon Browner's impending probability that he will be suspended as well, should not be a big loss in this game. Those Dirty birdies will not factor in how Seattle and its 12th man will overwhelm the Saints. Seahawks