Saturday, December 4, 2010

Week 13 Pigskin Predictions

Thursday Night Game
EAGLES 38, texans 24
Michael Vick faces the NFL’s worst pass defense when the Eagles and Texans do battle Thursday night in Philadelphia. Houston (5-6) needs a victory to hold on to its playoff hopes while Philly looks to take sole possession of first place in the NFC East. I’m seeing Vick having his way with Houston as the Eagles jump out to an early two touchdown lead and cruise on to their eighth victory of the season. Vick piles up 350-400 combined passing and rushing yards and accounts for 4 TDs, while Eagles RB LeSean McCoy crosses the goal line twice and registers 150 total yards from scrimmage. Houston’s dangerous combo of QB Matt Shaub and WR Andre Johnson have huge nights as well, albeit in garbage time after Philly racks up a big lead.

RESULT: EAGLES 34, texans 24
My final score was nearly spot on but the game did not flow quite as I expected. Philadelphia was able to acquire a 14-3 lead less than a minute into the second quarter but Houston fought back admirably. Trailing 20-10 at halftime, Schaub led the Texans on a 12-play, 6-minute-11-second drive finished by a 13-yard TD pass to RB Arian Foster. Then, after a Vick interception, Schaub led his Texans on another long drive (6:23) completed with another Foster TD. After Houston had dominated the third quarter (2 TDs over 12 1/2 minutes of game clock) to take a 24-20 lead, Vick’s Eagles fought back with vengeance. Philadelphia scored on each of its next two drives to reclaim the lead and eventually earned a 10-point win by game’s end. Vick finished 22-of-33 passing for 302 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT with 48 rush yards and another TD. McCoy was Vick’s top receiving target, catching 8 balls for 86 yards and a TD. He also rushed for 44 yards and a score. For Houston, Schaub passed for 337 yards with 2 TDs and one pick, with Johnson accounting for nearly half of those yards (149 on 6 catches) while Foster finished with 109 total yards and 2 TDs as the Texans fell to 5-7.

Sunday Noon Games
bills 24, VIKINGS 20
Upset Special: Minnesota’s “Good Brett (Favre), Bad Brett” saga continues as Favre follows his first turnover-free game of the season with 2 INTs and the Bills upset the Vikings at the Metrodome tomorrow. Buffalo’s league-worst rush defense is able to contain Minnesota’s injury-hampered Adrian Peterson as the Peterson’s sprained ankle renders the NFC’s leading rusher ineffective. The Bills get quality production from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Fred Jackson and WR Stevie Johnson as snake-bitten Buffalo gets victory No. 3. After a 36-26 home loss to Jacksonville Oct. 10, the Bills were 0-5 and regarded as arguably the worst team in football. However, Fitzpatrick began to heat up in passing for 382 yards and 4 TDs in a 37-34 week six loss at Baltimore and the Bills have been very competitive from then on. While Buffalo has only won two of its past six games, the four losses have all been by 3 points with three of them ending in overtime. The Bills preservation pays off in victory tomorrow as the team’s three-pronged offensive attack (Fitzpatrick, Jackson and Johnson) lead Buffalo past the Purple.

saints 31, BENGALS 17
What is it with NFL cats this year? The Bengals, Lions and Panthers are a combined 5-28 ... Wait, I guess the Jaguars (6-5) fairly decent this year. But still, of 32 NFL teams, four of these teams have cat-related names, and of these four, three are among the league’s worst? (2-9 Buffalo being the only other NFL team with two or fewer victories) That is quite an eerie coincidence ... Okay, moving on, after a 2-1 start the Cincinnati Bengals have lost eight straight games. This week Cincy plays host to Drew Brees and the red-hot Saints. If Bengals fans weren’t wearing bags over their heads in previous home games, they will by the end of Sunday’s game. New Orleans beats the Bungals easily in earning its fifth straight victory.

bears 24, LIONS 17
This year’s Detroit team has looked better than last year’s Lions (2-14) most of the time, however, this 2010 club is still racking up the losses (2-9) and will be without both its starting QB (Matthew Stafford) and 2nd-stringer (Shaun Hill). Fourth-year QB Drew Stanton makes his first NFL start against one of the league’s top defenses when the Lions meet the Bears in Motown tomorrow. On the good side, Stanton’s gets to make his starting debut at home. On the bad side, he has to face six-time Pro Bowler Brian Urlacher and the league’s 2nd-best scoring defense. One other positive for Stanton is he has one of the NFL’s most dangerous wideouts in Detroit’s 6-foot-5-inch, 236-pound Calvin Johnson. Stanton and Johnson’s efforts won’t be enough for the win, however, as Chicago (8-3) earns its fifth straight win and maintains its narrow NFC North lead over the 7-4 Green Bay Packers.

PACK 31, niners 10
The good thing about your team facing Arizona: It’s likely to result in a W. The bad thing about your team facing Arizona: The Cardinals are so bad that your team is unconsciously ill-prepared for its next opponent (see Minnesota Vikings, weeks nine and 10). San Francisco sans star RB Frank Gore (who suffered a season-ending hip injury last week) loses to Aaron Rodgers and the Pack by a landslide tomorrow. Lambeau Leaps abound for Green Bay as WR Greg Jennings, WR James Jones and even Rodgers himself (on a rush TD) reach the Pack’s first-row faithful as the Cheeseheads improve to 8-4.

jags 27, TITANS 17
Jacksonville was not thought of as a playoff team before the 2010 season began. Three weeks in, after consecutive blowout losses to San Diego and Philadelphia (by a combined score of 66-16), the Jaguars were bordering the NFL’s garbage bin. However, after winning five of its next seven games, the Jags have picked up the scent of playoff entry. Despite a close loss in New York last week, the Jaguars (6-5) travel to Tennessee with plenty of confidence. The Titans (5-6), on the other hand, have looked downtrodden in recent weeks. Injuries and inconsistency at the quarterback position and the ineffectiveness of “play when I want to play” Randy Moss have been key components in Tennessee losing its past four games. Jacksonville QB David Garrard has a productive day tomorrow and MJD (Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew) rolls up his fifth straight rushing game as the Jags leave LP Field with a 10-point victory.

CHIEFS 30, broncos 17
How hot is Dwayne Bowe these days? The Kansas City wide receiver has caught at least one touchdown in each of the Chiefs’ past seven games. As if that’s not enough, perhaps an even more impressive feat involving Bowe occurred in KC’s 42-24 win at Seattle last week. Bowe and Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles became the first WR/RB teammate tandem to each record 170 yards in receiving and rushing, respectively -- Bowe had 13 receptions for 173 yards while Charles rushed for 170 yards on 22 carries. For the season, Bowe has caught 58 passes for 885 yards and 14 TDs. While his scoring pace could challenge Randy Moss’ 2007 single-season TD record (23), what’s possibly more impressive about Bowe is that he is having this remarkable season without the Chiefs having any other bona fide threat at the wide receiver position (WR Dexter McCluster -- who also lines up as RB sometimes -- has 15 catches, while wideouts Terrance Copper and Chris Chambers each have 13). Tomorrow, AFC West-leading Kansas City welcomes divisional rival Denver to Arrowhead Stadium with revenge on their minds. The 7-4 Chiefs have proven to be a far better team than Denver this season but the Broncos handed the Chiefs an embarrassing 49-29 loss in week 10. Chiefs coach Todd Haley will make sure his team is ready tomorrow as Bowe, Charles and QB Matt Cassel propel Kansas City past the Broncos to maintain its one-game division lead over the surging San Diego Chargers.

FINS 17, browns 13
Despite the Dolphins lack of flair, Miami’s win at Oakland last week kept its dim playoff hopes alive. Cleveland, meanwhile, has shown signs of improvement but is still a team in development. The one main bright spot for the Browns (4-7) has been RB Peyton Hills, who is one of the league’s biggest surprises of the season. The 3rd-year player out of Arkansas has posted 905 rushing yards, 46 receptions, 414 receiving yards and 13 total TDs. Hillis’ 1,319 yards from scrimmage have accounted nearly 40 percent of his team’s total offensive output (3,413 yards) whiles his touchdown tally is more than half of Cleveland’s offensive TD total (21). Besides the emergence of Hills, this game promises to be one the least intriguing of the NFL’s week 13 slate. The Dolphins (6-5) will not make the playoffs but will defeat Cleveland tomorrow for its seventh win of the season.

GIANTS 20, skins 16
New York’s injury problem at the wide receiver position is so bad that the team has acquired three WRs (Michael Clayton, Derek Hagan and Devin Thomas) who’ve recently been cut from their respective NFL rosters. Despite the lack of receiving threats, Giants QB Eli Manning will make use of his receivers as best as possible and depend on solid efforts from running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs in leading his team to victory. The loss will drop Washington to 5-7 and severely dash any playoff hopes the team may have had heading into the game. New York improves to 8-4, in a virtual deadlock with Philadelphia in the battle for NFC East supremacy.

Sunday Late Games
CHARGERS 34, raiders 10
In week one, three Chargers turnovers, two blocked punts, a fumble return TD and a safety plagued San Diego a 35-27 loss to Oakland. Since then, San Diego has cleaned up things in winning four straight games (including a 36-14 lambasting of the Colts in Indianapolis this past Sunday night and a 35-14 blowout of Denver the previous Monday). Tomorrow, the Chargers get Oakland (5-6) at home for the rematch. Expect San Diego (6-5) to gain revenge by rummaging through the Raiders for its third straight 20-plus-point win and fifth consecutive win overall. The victory sets up the Chargers for an epic AFC West battle against the division-leading Chiefs next week in San Diego.

COLTS 31, boys 27
Indianapolis has lost three of its last four games, including an embarrassing 22-point loss at home on Monday Night Football last week. While Colts QB Peyton Manning would like to have his top RB (Joseph Addai) and No. 2 wideout (Austin Collie) back from injuries, Manning will not let his team lose two straight home games. Dallas, on the other hand, despite a dismal 1-7 start has been very dangerous in recent weeks. The Cowboys have won two out of its past three games averaging over 30 points per game during that span. Following a close loss to defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans on Thanksgiving, these Cowboys are confident, well-rested and ready to go. However, undeterred by Indianapolis’ depleted offense, Manning rallies around the players he does have and puts forward a fierce fight. Tomorrow’s tilt should be a closely fought battle featuring lots of offense from both teams, but it will be Manning’s Colts scoring the final points for a four-point win.

rams 31, CARDS 16
Arizona’s record may be 3-8, but the Cardinals (who rank 31st in offense and 28th in defense) could arguably be considered the league’s worst team. This past Monday night, the Cardinals allowed 31-year-old Bryan Westbrook to come off San Francisco’s bench and rush for 136 yards on 23 carries in a 27-6 blowout loss at home. Tomorrow, Arizona will host the upstart 5-6 Rams who, after a 1-15 season in 2009, are looking to make an improbable playoff appearance. Rookie Chad Bradford has been brilliant for St. Louis this season and will undoubtedly turn in a fine performance against Arizona. But it will be Rams RB Steven Jackson who welcomes this match-up most. After struggling last week against Denver (29 carries for 72 yards, 1 reception for -6 yards), expect Jackson to blow by the Cards defense for 150 total yards and a pair of TDs as the Rams even their record at 6-6.

HAWKS 23, panthers 20
The Pathetic Panthers (1-10) roll into Seattle tomorrow on its second five-game losing streak of the season. The 5-6 Seahawks have lost two in a row but remain a playoff contender by virtue of competing in the NFL’s worst division. While Carolina has been awful offensively this season, its defense has remained competitive. The Panthers have posted league lows in both yards per game (259.2) and points per game (12.7), however its defense has admirably kept them competitive (at times), ranking near the middle of the league in yards and points allowed. Also, in recent weeks, newcomer RB Mike Goodson has injected some energy and hope for Carolina’s inept offense. Since being granted his first opportunity as starter in the NFL, the second-year Texans A&M alum has produced solid numbers. Over Carolina’s past three games Goodson has toted the rock for 275 yards on 59 carries (a 4.7 per-carry average) with 11 catches for 124 receiving yards. He also scored his first TD as a pro on a 26-yard scamper in the Panthers’ one-point loss at Cleveland last week. So, facing the Seattle’s 22nd-ranked rush defense this week, can Goodson and the Panthers notch win No. 2? Not quite. Seahawks veteran QB Matthew Hasselbeck will throw for 250-plus yards and a pair of touchdowns as Seattle prevails by a field goal.

falcons 24, BUCS 17
I have picked against Tampa Bay virtually every single week and they continue to prove me wrong. These past two weeks they’ve been particularly impressive. On Nov. 21 the Buccaneers posted a 21-0 shutout of the 49ers at San Francisco and last week they nearly pulled out a win over the Ravens in Baltimore. That said, being that Tampa has yet to beat a team with a winning record, the 7-4 Bucs still have more than its share of detractors. Facing their division’s top team (the 9-2 Atlanta Falcons) at home, the Bucs have a golden opportunity to register a huge statement win. Conversely, the Falcons, despite being tied for the league’s best record at 9-2, would like to quiet critics as well. While Atlanta has done enough to prove playoff-worthy most pundits have yet to consider the Falcons to be a serious Super Bowl contender, citing the team’s lack of quality road wins. So, which team wins this key NFC South match-up tomorrow? I’m picking against the Bucs yet again in forecasting the Falcons to win by seven (which is is probably good news for Tampa).

RAVENS 16, steel 13 (in OT)
Two of the league’s hardest-hitting defenses square off in Baltimore tomorrow night as the Ravens host the Steelers. This intense division rivalry renews itself with plenty of intrigue. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are tied for the AFC North lead with identical 8-3 records. Only, as of now, Baltimore owns the tiebreaker due to its week four win at Pittsburgh. However, the Steelers lost that Oct. 3 battle without its starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. So, while the Ravens would like to beat Pittsburgh with its ace quarterback, Big Ben hopes to prove his Steelers are the better team this time around. This game will be a typical Steelers/Ravens defensive clash ending with Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff’s game-winning field goal in overtime.

PATS 20, jets 17
Game of the Week: This game is very similar to tomorrow night’s match-up, only these division rivals have matching records that are one win higher than Baltimore’s and Pittsburgh’s. The 9-2 Jets play the 9-2 Patriots in New England in a Monday Night Football game that promises to be highly entertaining. I’m giving this game the “Game of the Week” edge over the Ravens/Steelers’ game because of the star power and big city hype that is involved. New York’s Rex Ryan has enjoyed making playful, yet serious, statements of his team’s superiority. Ryan’s Jets also boast the latest win in this rivalry, doubling up the Patriots 28-14 in week two. A lot has changed since then, however, as the Pats have won eight of its nine contests since that game. Since New England head coach Bill Belichek decided to part ways with star receiver Randy Moss, the Pats have played with renewed chemistry and confidence. QB Tom Brady has reconnected with one of his former favorite receivers (WR Deion Branch, who played for New England from 2002-2006 and was reacquired by the team in week six) and quickly built good chemistry with some new targets (TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, WR/RB Danny Woodhead and WR Brandon Tate). Brady’s new bunch, which also includes emerging RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (who’s rushed for 627 yards on 211 carries with 9 TDs), gives New England the edge tomorrow night as the Pats avenge their early season loss to New York and edge the Jets by three.

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