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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tuesday's Here: NFL Predictions Review

Week 11 results: 8-7 wins (43-24 season); 4-11 v. spread (22-45 season)

 New York Jets (+1) @ Buffalo Bills (41): Bills 20-17 Bills 37-17
1:00 PM, Buffalo, NY (Weather: heavy rain, unseasonably warm)

Reasons: The Jets have not won - or lost for that matter - back to back games this season, an interesting trend I see continuing. On the other side, the Bills have lost three in a row, and will be looking for their first win in a month, at home where they historically play better. Both teams feature two of the league's best rushing attacks, which will come in handy during the heavy rain Sunday. Conversely, both teams feature two of the league's worst passing attacks; those statistics will not improve as the two rookie QBs will be throwing in the rain, if at all. The real test will be if the Bill's slightly banged up two-headed RB monster (Jackson/Spiller) can crack the league's top rush defense. I think they will just enough in the driving rain, complimented by a few heady plays from EJ Manuel and a few mistakes from Geno Smith, to take the sloppy win at home.

The Bills defense went beast mode in the bad weather forcing turnovers all day. Geno Smith was injured at one point, and looked lost most of the day as the Bills projected stout defense lived up to the "billing". The Jets continued their roller coaster ride, having neither won or lost two in a row.

Baltimore Raven (+3) @ Chicago Bears (46): Bears 17-13 Bears 23-20
1:00 PM, Chicago, IL (Weather: severe thunderstorms, high winds, unseasonably warm)

Reasons: I can't imagine the O/U would still be 46 if the lines were set today considering the storm forecasted to roll through the Chicago area this afternoon. The weather combined with a banged-up (if playing) Jay Cutler spells doom for the NFL's 8th-ranked passing attack, so they'll hand it off to the run game as Forte takes on the league's 10th-ranked run defense, which is a little banged up. Flacco will have no shot in the air and will have to rely on Ray Rice and the league's 30th-ranked rushing attack, which may have a chance in this weather v. the 31st-ranked rush defense. The stars have aligned to make this one a sloppy game as well, hence the low score.

The weather held true causing a 2-hour delay, but the O/U nearly held true, too, as the teams managed 43 points in the mud (the field was destroyed). Ray Rice took advantage of a decimated defense and terrible weather and lived up to his hype for the first time this season.

Cleveland Browns (+6) @ Cincinnati Bengals (42): Bengals 20-17 Bengals 41-20
1:00 PM, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: sever thunderstorms, windy, unseasonably warm)

Reasons:  Two of the league's best complete defenses will square off in more bad weather and produce another low-scoring game. The Brown's struggling offense will have a hard time gaining traction in the mud or against this beastly Bengals defense, but the strength of the Bengals offense could be non-existent in bad weather v. an equally beastly defense. It'll be up to the Law Firm and the rookie Giovani Benard to carry the load unless the rains come late. That will dictate the game.

Another defense went beast mode yesterday - the Bengals. They completely dominated the Browns throughout the 2nd quarter (31 points) after the Browns quickly went up 13-0 in the 1st. Both teams scored defensive TDs. The Bengals defense took it away four times, scoring on two of those takeaways, and broke the game wide open midway through the 3rd quarter.

Washington Natives (+3.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles (52.5): Natives 34-31 Eagles 24-16
1:00 PM, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: 20% rain, high 60's)

Reasons: Two of the league's best offenses square off against the two of the worst passing defenses and two of the most mediocre run defenses. This is the recipe for a high-scoring game as the Natives look to avenge the Week 1 loss in which Chip Kelly unleashed his new offense and took center stage  ruining RGIII's return.

A tale of three quarters and one quarter, the Eagles shot out to a 17-0 first half lead, then added 7 more in the 3rd, before RGIII finally woke up and got the Redskins back into the game too late. Once again RGIII took most of the game off, just to turn it on late with the Eagles playing prevent defense. That seems to be a theme for RGII, even going back to last year. Neither team looked sharp and despite whatever end these teams enjoy, neither will make it far in the playoffs.

Detroit Lions (-2.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (47.5): Lions 21-17 Steelers 37-27
1:00 PM, Pittsburgh, PA (Weather: 80% rain, high 60's)
Reasons: The theme this week is bad weather stifling high-octane passing offenses. This plagues this game too, as two of the league's top passing offenses will more than likely be slowed in heavy rain. Megatron will always manage some offense, but this one will again be left to the rushing attacks, in which Pittsburgh's backs will face the league's 8th-ranked run defense. Another low-scoring game.

No one know what happened in this game. Actually, we do. The Lions blasted off in the 2nd quarter after figuring out the Steelers defense, only to be totally thwarted in the second half by the Steeler's own adjustments. Congrats, Dick LeBeau, you still have something in the tank. Two key turnovers in the second half basically gave the Steelers the game after Stafford began forcing the ball to Megatron. The Steeler's offense found the stadium.

Atlanta Falcons (-1.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (43.5): Falcons 21-20 Buccaneers 41-28
1:00 PM, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: warm 20% rain)
Reasons: What an awful game. The Buc's are coming off their first win of the season, and the Falcons are a shell of their former selves, but with the Falcons getting healthier, and having no option but to pass against the league's 5th-ranked run defense, I see them squeaking out a victory v. the hapless Buccaneers. Schiano's days are numbered.

The Falcons are horrible. That is the review of this game. I suupose we can't close without mentioning Bobby "Makin' It" Rainey, who came out of nowhere for 163 yards and two TDs on 30 carries. Maybe Schiano isn't finished just yet as the Buc's have won two in a row after losing 8 straight.

Arizona Cardinals (-7) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (41.5): Cardinals 20-13 Cardinals 27-14
1:00 PM, Jacksonville, FL (Weather: warm, 30% rain)
Reasons: The Jaguars also won their first game of the season last week, but that won't help them this week as they face one of the league's best run defenses. Wait, they can't rush the ball. They can't throw either, especially in the rain. They will slow the Cardinals mediocre passing attack, but should manage some yards on the ground v. the hapless Jaguars. The Cardinals offense won't be lighting up the scoreboard, but will manage enough point to beat these domesticated, London-bound Jaguars.

The Jaguars had a first-win-of-the-season hangover and the Cardinals took advantage. Only managing 274 yards on offense on 24 minutes possession, the Jaguars turned it over twice and returned to 0-8 form. The Cardinals - specifically Carson Palmer - on the other hand , blew up, putting up 419 yards in the air and took care of the worst team in football.

Oakland Raiders (+7) @ Houston Texans (42): Texans 24-17 Raiders 28-23
1:00 PM, Houston , TX (Weather: Indoors)
Reasons: I couldn't for the life of my figure out why the Texans were favored by 7 points, even with the recent injuries to the Raider's offense, until I realized that the Texans, despite being 2-7, are ranked in the top half of all four major statistical categories, including the #1 ranked pass defense. That is going to spell doom for the Raiders, who will not be able to get anything going against the Texans. Case Keenum has sparked the Texans of late, and I expect that trend to continue.

The Raiders, without starting QB Terrell Pryor and RB Darren McFadden, turned it over to back up RB Rashad Jennings, who posted 150 on the ground and carried the Raiders to victory. On the other side, the Texan inexplicably benched Case Keenum for Matt Schaub in the 3rd Quarter only to have the whole thing blow up in their face. The Texans out gained the Raiders, but turned it over twice in a loss that seals a non-winning season after having Super Bowl aspirations. 

San Diego Chargers (-1.5) @ Miami Dolphins (45.5): Chargers 24-20 Dolphins 20-16
4:05 PM, Miami, FL (Weather: warm and clear)

Reasons: The Dolphins are reeling, and despite the quieting storm, the clouds still linger. Add that to a Chargers team that can turn it on (and off) in any game and I think the Chargers take advantage of an emotionally injured team that is getting worse by the week. The 4th-ranked passing attack of the Chargers v. the 14th-ranked pass defense of the Dolphins may be the only intriguing match up of the game. At least the weather will be nice.

The Chargers remind me of the Jets in their unpredictability. Despite out-gaining the Dolphins and holding the ball for three more minutes, ten penalties stalled drives and the bend-but-don't-break Dolphins defense limited the Chargers to three FGs and a TD. A mediocre effort from the Dolphins offense was all it took to beat the Chargers on their off-week.

San Francisco 49ers (+3) @ New Orleans Saints (47.5): 49ers 30-27 Saints 23-20
4:25 PM, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Possibly the best match up of the day, we have an early glimpse of the potential NFC Championship game with two of the best teams in the NFC (and the NFL) squaring off. Despite SF's passing problems, they bring the house with the running game, something NO has a hard time stopping. Conversely, the Saints have one of the best passing attacks in the league, but no running game, which will hurt the one-dimensional Saints v. one of the best overall defenses in the NFL. 49ers stun the Saints at home in a close one.

This game of football is getting ridiculous, and another HORRENDOUS call, which ultimately cost the 49ers the game, changed an incredible defensive, game-winning play into a chance for New Orleans to tie the game with a chip-shot field goal. Total bullsh*t. Despite your feelings about the direction of Brees' neck movement relative to his head movement, the hit was not only clean, but textbook. The play also should have resulted in the 49ers taking over and sealing the game. Instead the Saints got 15 bullsh*t yards and kicked a game-tying chip shot, eventually winning as time expired on their next possession. This play unfortunately renders an otherwise incredible game tainted.

Green Bay Packers (+5) @ New York Giants (42): Giants 24-20 Giants 27-13
4:25 PM, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: 30% rain, unseasonably warm)

Reasons: The Giants could play the Houston Texans in the Super "High Statistical Rankings Yet Horrible Records" Bowl. Both teams are ranked high enough to warrant leading records, not just winning records, yet mistakes by both teams have plagued them all season, costing them many wins. The Giants' defense is improving, just in time, and the offense should take advantage of an injured Packers defense that was mediocre anyway. The Packers are dealing with major injuries and are hoping just to stay afloat as they weather said injuries. The Giants will win their fourth game in a row, a feat they have accomplished every year Manning has been at the helm.

Not much to report here The Giants defense is improving, and the Packers offense relies on Scott Tolzien until Aaron Rodgers returns. The Packers hung in yards-wise, but three turnovers and a 3:2 time of possession advantage tells the tale.

Minnesota Vikings (+12.5) @ Seattle Seahawks (45.5): Seahawks 30-20 Seahawks 41-20
4:25 PM, Seattle, WA (Weather: 50% rain, mid-40s)

Reasons: The Seahawks beast...on EVERY level. Even their 24th-ranked pass offense would have you fooled. On the other side, however, is a Vikings team that, despite injuries and poor statistical rankings and record, seem to give teams trouble now and again, including an unexpected win v. the Natives last week. That will not happen this week. Despite AP getting his, Ponder and the Vikings will be shut down. The Seahawks' run wild on this poor rush defense, and even manage a few in the air.

Tony Gerhart led the Vikings in rushing v. this consistently stout defense, and he had 14 fewer carries than AP. Yikes. You can't play games with this Seahawks defense, and the Vikings turned it over four times, including a pick-6. The Seahawks offense balls, too, and they took care of business against an injured and over matched Minnesota team.

Kansas City (+8) @ Denver Broncos (49.5): Chiefs 28-27 Broncos 27-17
8:30 PM, Denver, CO (Weather: Freezing, clear)

Reasons: Best scoring offense (41.2 points/game) v. best scoring defense (12.8 points). Something has to give. Manning is hobbled. That can't be good v. this KC front seven. The Broncos improving rushing attack might gain some traction v. the Chief's 24th-ranked run defense, but I wouldn't count on it. The name of the game will actually be Denver's defense, as their 4th-ranked run defense will give the Chiefs respectable run game trouble all night, leaving much of the game to Alex Smith. That could go either way as the Broncos have one of the league's worst pass defenses. This is a tough game to call, and I can't believe Vegas has the Broncos as 8-point favorites. With key players hobbled and KC trying to make its first true statement, I like the Chiefs. Barely. Hey, I called the Bronco's only other loss.

The Chiefs struggle offensively. That is an understatement. So it figures that the Chiefs would have a difficult time keeping up with Denver, even while holding them to 14 points below their season average. The Broncos defense, as I said, ended up being the name of the game as their bend-but-don't-break style held KC's mediocre offense to only 17 points, despite gaining 344 yards of offense. Manning looked fine, and the Chiefs barely got to him, but they did lose Welker to a concussion; he's questionable for next week's game v. the New England Patriots.

New England (+2.5) @ Carolina Panthers (46): Panthers 27-24 Panthers 24-20
Monday, 8:30 PM, Charlotte, NC

Reasons: This one hurts. The one kryptonite for the Patriots when they're healthy and firing on all cylinders (which they finally seem to be)? A beastly pass rush. Ugh. Our strength has been the run; they're ranked 2nd v. the run. Ugh. Bill Belichick will no doubt give Cam Newton headaches all day, but the Patriots rank 30th v. the run, a strength of Carolina's game. We're talking about a future HOF QB and a future HOF coach v. a third-year headcase and a coach that could be fired if things don't continue to improve. Still, this Carolina team is on the rise, and despite the Patriots offense trending the same way, recent key injuries on defense will have the Patriots playing catch up against one of the best overall defenses in the NFL, one with the recipe to beat New England.

I refuse to talk about this game other than to say it was hard fought, Cam Newton finally showed why he was drafted #1 overall three years ago, and the officials clearly have a vendetta against the New England Patriots.

Thursday Night Football: Indianapolis (-3) @ Tennessee Titans (42.5): Colts 24-23 Colts 30-27

(Did not review in depth; Thursday Night Football reviews begin next week)

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