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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tuesday's Gone: Week 10 #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

 Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer will be playing on the big stage Thursday night in a big divisional game v. the Bengals, but the Cincinnati - and the weather - could spoil that.

Week 10: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

Week 10 results: 9-4 wins (99-47-1 .673); 4-9 v. spread (64-82-1 .435)

Cleveland Browns 5-3 (+6) @ Cincinnati Bengals 5-2-1 (44.5): Bengals 21-20 Browns 24-3
Thursday, 8:25 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: 40% rain, low 40s)

Reasons: This could be about as evenly matched as any Thursday night game has been so far this season, and it happens to be a battle between two NFC North teams, the 9th straight divisional game on Thursday night (Opening Night SEA v. GB was the only non-divisional game). Both of these teams “win” their respective games by close, and similar, average margins (CLE 23-21; CIN 24-23). The difference in this game is people expect the Bengal to win, which doesn’t always happen when expected, and the Browns had low expectations entering this season, at least relative to the Bengals, yet they keep finding ways to win. Both of these teams are terrible at stopping the run (CLE – 31st; CIN – 30th), and both teams really only excel in one aspect of the game (CLE – 8th-ranked scoring defense; CIN – 9th rushing yards), which should play right into the Bengals hands. Quarterback Brian Hoyer could have tough time matriculating the ball down the field v. this good Bengals defense, with tight end Jordan Cameron out and wide receiver Andre Hawkins questionable, although Cincinnati is without key players on defense. With poor weather forecasted and a superior run game, you have to give the nod to the Bengals.

The Browns came to play, and Andy Dalton and the Bengals played terrible - that about sums up the game. The Browns snapped a 17-game losing streak within the division and held the Bengals to an abysmal 165 yards of offense and 2.6 yards per play. The good news out of Cincinnati was the $1.3M raised for cancer research by the Bengals, sparked by Leah Still, the daughter of defensive lineman Devon Still, who is battling pediatric cancer.

Kansas City Chiefs 5-3 (-2) @ Buffalo Bills 5-3 (41.5): Bills 23-21 Chiefs 17-13
Sunday, 1 PM, Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, NY (Weather: 20% rain; low 40s)

Reasons: At various points in recent history this game is a channel-changer. In mid-season 2014 it could be the game of the week. The Chiefs and Bills are two of the better defenses in the NFL, ranking 2nd (KC) and 6th (BUF) in scoring defense, while individually KC is the top-ranked pass defense and Buffalo is the 8th-ranked run defense. The big difference here is offense, where the Chiefs excel in the running game (6th), and the Bills excel at nothing offensively. Whoops, remember the Bills have the 8th-rank run defense. They also force turnovers (+7), and with the Chiefs’ problems in that area (-2), and the potential weather, I don’t see KC as two-point favorites on the road.

The Bills had many 4th quarter chances to win this game and squandered every one of them. The Chiefs, on the other hand, scored 14 unanswered 4th-quarter points to steal the victory from the home town Bills. Buffalo dominated for the most part, but three fumbles allowed the Chiefs to take control and ultimately win.

Miami Dolphins 5-3 (+3) @ Detroit Lions 6-2 (43.5): Lions 21-20 Lions 20-16
Sunday, 1 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: One of the most intriguing games of the week, the Dolphins are actually one of the best teams in the NFL, and the Lions haven’t imploded yet, despite missing Calvin Johnson the past few games. The Dolphins rank in the top-ten in both scoring offense (9th) and defense (3rd), rushing yards (4th) and rush defense (2nd), while the Lions are the top-ranked scoring defense (16 ppg allowed), and rank in the top-ten in passing yards (9th), pass defense (5th) and rush defense (2nd).  The problem is Detroit is one of the worst rushing teams in the league (31st) and they don’t’ score much (20 ppg – 24th). Miami isn’t really bad at anything, and they force turnovers (+6), but Detroit is home and coming off the bye. This is going to be a great, close game.

This game belonged to Matt Stafford and the Lions’ defense, which held Miami to 228 yards on 3.8 yards per play. Stafford hit Theo Riddick with 29 seconds left for the go-ahead score, and the Lions overcame 10 penalties at home to beat one of the better teams in the league, despite the cackling you hear when you say that a out loud. Calvin Johnson returned to form Sunday, catching 7 of 15 targets for 113 yards and a TD; Golden Tate’s game didn’t suffer at all – he caught 11 of 13 targets for 109 yards.

Dallas Cowboys 6-3 (-6.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1-8 (44.5): Cowboys 27-21 Cowboys 31-17
Sunday, 1 PM, Wembley Stadium, London, England (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: What are the Cowboys doing? Risking the health of Tony Romo to play the lowly Jaguars in London is a transparent business move that might make Jerry Jones some initial cash, but could cost him exponentially more cash if Romo is injured playing in a meaningless game. I suppose no NFL game is meaningless, but Jacksonville is horrible, ranking in the bottom-ten in passing yards (27th), pass defense (25th), rush defense (24th), scoring defense (30th) and scoring offense (last). JAX also boast the league’s worst point differential (-12) and rank towards the bottom in turnover ration (-9). The Cowboys remain one of the better teams in the league, but are taking a serious risk.

The Cowboys rolled the dice and sent Tony Romo into battle with a broken back and he survived. The same can be said for the “DeMarco Murray for Greatest Running Back of All-Time” talk, which seems revived after he ran for 100 yards on 19 carries (see, these teams DO watch the sports shows). The day may have belonged to Romo, but Dez Bryant caught 6 of 8 targets for 158 yards and 2 TDs, letting London know what the deal in Dallas really is. The Jaguars hung in through the first quarter.

San Francisco 49ers 4-4 (+5) @ New Orleans Saints 4-4 (49): Saints 28-24 49ers 27-24 (OT)
Sunday, 1 PM, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: This is a tale of one of the best defenses in the NFL playing one of the best offenses in the NFL. The 49ers are the 3rd-ranked pass defense; the Saints have the 3rd-ranked passing offense. The Saints have the 7th-ranked rush offense; the 49ers have the 5th-ranked run defense. The difference here is that the game is in New Orleans, where the Saints are a different animal (33 ppg at home v. 25 ppg on the road), which should offset the Saints’ injuries at running back and their horrible turnover ratio (-6).

What a stunner. Jimmy Graham caught what many thought were the final two TDs of the game, including the go-ahead TD, only to have Colin Kaepernick throw a 51-yard bomb to Michael Crabtree on 4th down to set up the tying FG with 44 seconds left. Then Jimmy Graham might have caught the final three TDs if he hadn’t been called for offensive pass interference for slightly pushing cornerback Perrish Cox, after which Cox threw himself to the turf, forcing the officials to throw the flag. The 49ers then took over with defense, kicked the game-winning FG in OT, and stole the tough win from the Saints on the road.

Tennessee Titans 2-6 (+9.5) @ Baltimore Ravens 5-4 (44): Ravens 27-17 Ravens 21-7
Sunday, 1 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: Sunny, mid-50s)

Reasons: Let’s just say the Ravens are a far superior team at home in great football weather, and let’s just leave it at that.

Exactly. The Ravens defense terrorized rookie Zach Mettenberger and Justin Forsett rushed for 112 yards and two TDs on 20 carries.

Pittsburgh Steelers 6-3 (-5) @ New York Jets 1-8 (45.5): Jets 21-20 Jets 20-13
Sunday, 1 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny, mid-50s)

Reasons: There’s no doubt the Jets are one of the worst teams in the NFL, but the Jets defense, which almost seems to be a different team, is one of the best in the league, believe it or not. The Jets are 7th v. the run, 6th in total yards allowed, and allow the second-fewest first downs per game, yet the yield 28 ppg, good for 30th in the NFL. The Jets offense is atrocious, ranking 30th in scoring offense (17 ppg) and last in the league in passing yards. The Jets are also the worst in the league in turnover ratio, at -15. All of this said, the Steelers are not that good on the road, and boast the highest home/away point differential of any team in the league (H – 33 ppg; A – 11 ppg). 12 Big Ben touchdowns in past two weeks only solidify my notion that the reeling Jets take advantage of the Jeckyl and Hyde Steelers and come away with the much-needed win.

The entire county outside of New York…ok, this Jets win may surprise the entire country, but not me. As I said, the Steelers were coming off three straight home wins, two straight off-the-charts performances in which Roethlisberger threw 12 TDs, and they were playing on the road against a great front four on a reeling home team. That’s a wordy recipe for a let down, and that’s exactly what happened.

Atlanta Falcons 2-6 (-2.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-7 (46): Buccaneers 20-17 Falcons 27-17
Sunday, 1 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Chance rain; low 70s)

Reasons: The last time Tampa Bay played the Falcons was Week 3 in Atlanta and the Falcons embarrassed them 56-14. In fact, the score was 56-0 by the 3rd quarter, and it was 35-0 at the half. In other words, the Buccaneers have been thinking about revenge for the past seven weeks. I won’t bore you with the statistics, because both of these teams are bad, but I will say the Buccaneers win a close one at home, despite the fact they score far less at home (15 ppg) than they do on the road (22 ppg). Many of those low-scoring losses were to good defense, of which the Falcons are not.

A relatively evenly-matched game statistically-speaking, three turnovers and 10 penalties did the Buccaneers in, but hey, 27-17 is better than 56-14 any day.

Denver Broncos 6-2 (-11.5) @ Oakland Raiders 0-8 (49): Broncos 28-20 Broncos 41-17
Sunday, 4:05 PM, O. Co. Stadium, Oakland, CA (Weather: Sunny, mid-70s)

Reasons: The Broncos are the far superior team and are coming of their worst loss of the season. The Raiders are still winless and appear to only be competing for “Worst Statistical Team”. The difference between Oakland and most of the other terrible teams is the Raiders are full of veterans that won somewhere at some point, and Derek Carr does appear to be a quarterback on the right path. All of this only means that the Raiders consistently cover, or have for a few weeks anyway, so I don’t see the Broncos winning by 12 or more points…more like 10 or less.

Business as usual for the division-leading Broncos, who took out their Patriots-loss anger on the hapless Raiders. Peyton Manning did throw two more INTs, which is cause for concern, but he also threw five more TD passes, which isn’t.

St. Louis Rams 3-5 (+7) @ Arizona Cardinals 7-1 (43): Cardinals 24-20 Cardinals 31-14
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ (Weather: Sunny, low 80s)

Reasons: With recent wins over the Seahawks (Week 7) and the 49ers (Week 9), the Rams may have fooled a few people into thinking they’re better then they are, but Vegas isn’t fooled. I’m not fooled either. Then again, are the Cardinals any less of a mystery? The Cardinals do have the 3rd-ranked rush defense and the 5th-ranked scoring defense, but it’s the turnover ratio (+10) and Bruce Arians that has this team winning, which doesn’t end this week.

This was actually a pretty close game until midway through the 4th quarter; in fact, Arizona was losing 14-10 until 7:40 in the 4th quarter, at which point the Arizona Petersons scored their first of three unanswered 4th-quarter TDs to take the lead and seal the seemingly lopsided win. The tragedy for the Cardinals, although they’ve been dealing with it all year, was the loss of Carson Palmer for the season to an ACL tear.

New York Giants 3-5 (+9) @ Seattle Seahawks 5-3 (44.5): Seahawks 27-20 Seahawks 38-17
Sunday, 4:25 PM, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: 80% rain, low 50s)

Reasons: Even if the Giants weren’t as bad as they are so far this season, one would still be inclined to give the nod to the home team Seahawks, who have only lost two games at home in the past two seasons. The Seahawks still remain one of the most dominant defenses in the NFL, despite potentially missing Maxwell and Chancellor Sunday. The weather s not going to help the Giants out at all, but it’ll surely help the under. Seahawks roll.

The Seahawks rushed for 350 yards on 45 carries for a whopping 7.8 ypc and five TDs, four by Marshawn Lynch, and the defense held the Giants to 17 points in the muck to keep pace in the NFC West.

Chicago Bears 3-5 (+7.5) @ Green Bay Packers 5-3 (53.5): Packers 28-24 Packers 55-14
Sunday, 8:30 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: 30% snow; low 30s)

Reasons: Classic NFC North battle, rife with potential snow and freezing temperatures. We may be in the middle of fall, but it could be a winter scene at Lambeau Field for the visiting Bears, who are reeling to say the least. The Packers passing game is in mid-season form, which is about all it takes v. these Bears, and Aaron Rodgers can zip it in the snow. Unless Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler and he offensive coordinator get it together by Sunday night, Rodgers could carve these guys up.

Aaron Rodgers threw for 6 TDs…in the first half. The Bears are literally that bad.

Carolina Panthers 3-5-1 (+6) @ Philadelphia Eagles 6-2 (48): Eagles 27-21 Eagles 45-21
Monday, 8:30 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Clear, low 50s)

Reasons: I wrote months ago for that the Panthers could potentially lose to the Eagles on the road, in the midst of one of the more grueling parts of their schedule, and that was before the Panthers began their slide into the abyss. It’s not looking good for Carolina, which has quickly become one of the worst teams in the NFL, statistically speaking; the Panthers are the 25th-ranked scoring offense and defense. The Eagles, on the other hand, are an offensive juggernaut (5th-ranked passing yards; 8th-ranked rushing yards; 4th-ranked scoring offense), although they lost Nick Foles for the next month or more, and will be trotting out Mark “Butt Fumble” Sanchez for the start. LeSean McCoy is also questionable, so there is hope for the Panthers, especially considering Philadelphia’s turnover ratio (-10), but it’s slim hope at best.

It’s not looking good for the team I cover, and Cam Newton might not survive the season at this rate. The offensive line is in shambles, the running game is inept, and Newton either has no time, stands like a statue, or makes you wince as he rushes the football, and the defense has now given up an average of 27.9 ppg, after ranking second in the league in 2013 allowing only 15.2 ppg. The Eagles defense, on the other hand, was flying around, no pun intended. All three phases of the Eagles’ game was flying as a matter of fact, as they scored on offense, defense, and special teams. This game was two teams dealing with adversity and soaring in opposite directions.

Check back Thursday and again Sunday for Week 11: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) at!

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