Sunday, December 12, 2010

Week 14 Pigskin Predictions

Thursday Night Game
colts 27, TITANS 14 (written Thursday, prior to the game)
The once-dominant Indianapolis Colts march into Tennessee tonight to face the dissipating Titans. Indy, who comes in losers three straight, enters play tonight with a 6-6 record. This following a 26-6 combined record from the team’s last two seasons. Tennessee, meanwhile, enters tonight’s contest with arguably a more disappointing string of games, having lost five straight games after posting a 5-2 record to begin the season. The good thing for these two teams is that someone has to win. Tennessee has a star running back, Chris Johnson, while the Colts have a star quarterback, Peyton Manning. While the Colts QB has been performing poorly without the benefit of a couple prime targets (TE Dallas Clark and WR Austin Collie out due to injury), Manning still has good ol’ No. 87 -- 10-year veteran WR Reggie Wayne (90 receptions, 1,170 receiving yards this season).Tennessee’s Johnson may get his share of yards tonight, and probably a score as well, but look for Indy’s Manning-to-Wayne connection to be tonight’s main attraction. The Colts win this game by 13.

RESULT: colts 30, TEXANS 28
Well, my predicted score wasn’t terribly close, but some main feature of it played true. Manning was the primary reason for the Colts win, bouncing back from throwing 11 picks over his past three games (all loses) to throw for 319 yards and 2 TDs without an INT. Wayne had a solid game (4 recs, 106 rec yds), but it was Indy’s No. 2 WR last night, Pierre Garcon, who came up big with 6 catches, 93 yards and 2 TDs. As I expected, Tennessee’s Johnson certainly racked up his share of yards, 179 combined rushing/receiving, as well as a TD. However, Indianapolis had control of the game for most of the night and virtually iced it when a clutch 47-yard FG by Adam put the Colts up by nine (30-21) with 2:55 left in the game. The Titans answered with a virtually meaningless TD as the clock expired to make the score look a little better as Tennessee swallowed a two-point setback for its sixth straight loss.

Sunday Noon Games
BILLS 24, browns 20
For six straight weeks, the Buffalo Bills looked like the most respectable 2-9 NFL team in several years. After a 0-5 start, the Bills went 2-4 over its next six games with all four losses coming against division leaders by three points. However, last week, the 0-5 Bills returned in suffering their worst lost since Week 4. On Oct. 3, the Bills were steamrolled 38-14 at home by the New York Jets. Last Sunday, another team handed Buffalo an equally embarrassing drubbing, as the Bills incurred a 38-14 loss at Minnesota. The Bills return home today as they welcome in the Cleveland Browns to Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Browns (5-7) enter the game hoping to top their win total from last season (when they finished 5-11). Leading the way for Cleveland has been 24-year-old RB Peyton Hills, who the Browns received via trade this past off-season. After being limited to 57 rushing yards last week in Miami, Hillis (962 rush yds, 11 rush TDs) is salivating to face Buffalo’s league-worse rush defense. Expect for Hillis to top the 1,000-yard mark rushing to give Cleveland a fighting chance, but for Buffalo to emerge victorious. The Bills’ three-headed offensive attack of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (2,384 pass yds with 20 TDs), RB Fred Jackson (663 rush yards, 27 recs, 7 total TDs) and WR Stevie Johnson (61 recs, 832 rec yards with 9 TDs) get back on track in leading their team to a four-point W.

pack 34, LIONS 24
Losers of five straight games, Detroit is due for a win. But facing QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers is not the team to get it against. Lions QB Drew Stanton had a respectable game last week for his first NFL start (16-for-24 passing for 178 yards, 1 TD and no picks), but his team lost 24-20 to Chicago at home. Stanton gets to play at home once again but the QB opposite of him this week is of even higher caliber than Chicago’s. It’s very possible Stanton passes for 250 yards and a couple TDs today, but Rodgers will out-duel him. The Pack QB throws for 300-plus yards and 3 scores as Green Bay achieves its ninth win of the season by topping Detroit by ten.

STEEL 23, bengals 10
Division rivals clash in Steel City as 9-3 Pittsburgh hosts 2-10 Cincinnati this afternoon. The Steelers enter this contest winner’s of three straight games. The Bengals, thanks to a botched play in the final minute of last week’s 34-30 home loss to New Orleans, have lost nine straight. The bad thing for the Bengals is this week is they have to face Pittsburgh. The good thing this week is they won’t have to worry about a mishap during the game’s waning moments costing them the game. Pittsburgh’s stingy defense (ranking 5th in the NFL in total yards allowed, 1st in defending the rush) doesn’t allow Cincinnati to sniff even a faint scent of victory. The Steelers grab an early 10-point lead a cruise on for a 13-point W that will not be as close as the score suggests. Pittsburgh improves to 10-3 while the Bungals wallow their way home with their tenth straight loss.

bucs 24, SKINS 21
Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman has quietly taken a huge step forward as a rising NFL talent. Last year, as a rookie, Freeman took the reins of a reeling 0-7 football team to defeat a tough Green Bay Packers team Nov. 8, 2009 in Tampa. From there, Freeman took his share of learning bumps as the Buccaneers lost its final eight games (finishing with a 1-15 record last season); but, the young QB has emerged rapidly in his sophomore season. Tampa was 1-11 through its first 12 games last season, this year the team is 7-5. Freeman finished last year passing for a 54.5% success rate (158-for-290) for 1,855 yards, 10 TDs and 18 INTs – good for a 59.8 QB rating. Thus far this season, the Bucs already have six more wins than last year and Freeman is 213-for-365 (58.4%) passing for 2,422 yards with 16 TDs and only 6 INTS, amounting in a quarterback rating of 86.4 (26.6 points higher than last season). This week the Bucs travel to Washington to face the woeful Redskins. Loser of four of its last five games, Washington owns a 5-7 record and the league’s worst defense (allowing 397.3 yards per game). Look for Freeman to take another step forward in his progression as he hooks up with his impressive rookie wide-out, Mike Williams (51 recs, 769 yds, 7 TDs), in leading Tampa to another win. Although Freeman may not lead the Bucs to a playoffs this season, he and Williams (Tampa’s 4th round, 101st pick this year) will finish this year’s season with gusto and have great hope heading into 2011.

falcons 27, PANTHERS 17
Teams at opposite ends of the NFL’s totem pole square off in Charlotte, North Carolina today as the 10-2 Falcons face the 1-11 Panthers. This game sets up to be the safest win for any NFL team this week, but will it be? Atlanta controls home-field advantage for the playoffs (as of now) after escaping Tampa Bay last week with a 28-24 win over the Bucs, while Carolina lost its sixth straight game by blowing an early two-touchdown lead to lose 31-14 in Seattle. This is what many analysts would call a “trap game” for the Falcons. A game they should win, and win rather easily, as long as they aren’t complacent. Carolina, who’s only win this season came against the 4-8 49ers at home, will fight hard for its home crowd. RB James Stewart will have a nice game in keeping Carolina close, but Atlanta’s offensive trio of QB Matt Ryan, WR Roddy White and RB Michael Turner are too hard to handle in the end. The Falcons win this one by 10.

JAGS 28, oak 17
Playoffs?! Don’t talk about playoffs?! Are you kidding me?! Playoffs?! Well, at 7-5, Jacksonville is hardly a shoo-in for the playoffs yet, but a win this week takes them another step closer to reaching that goal. The Jaguars host a 6-6 Oakland team that needs a win badly to keep its playoff hopes alive. Well, it’s not going to happen. RB Maurice Jones-Drew continues to carry his team toward the playoffs with sixth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance in leading Jacksonville over the Raiders this afternoon. The victory is much-needed after the Jags primary AFC South division contender, Indianapolis (7-6), snapped a three-game skid with a win at Tennessee last night. Speaking of the Colts, Jacksonville travels to Indianapolis next Sunday for what is sure to be a thriller. MJD’s Jags vs. Peyton Manning’s Colts – get your popcorn ready!

Sunday Late Games
SAINTS 34, rams 28
Rookie QB Sam Bradford leads 6-6 St. Louis into New Orleans today to face the 9-3 Saints. This game could be a blowout or could be really exciting? Whatever the case may be - the Saints will win. Bradford has been impressive, but New Orleans QB Drew Brees has more experience, more weapons and more confidence. Bradford, RB Steven Jackson and the Rams will hang tough with New Orleans, but it will be too much Brees in the end. The Saints beat St. Louis by six in keeping pace with 10-2 Atlanta in the NFC South.

hawks 23, NINERS 20
Upset of the Week: I’m not sensing too many underdogs to win this week, thus choosing the Seattle Seahawks to defeat the 4.5-point favorite 49ers in San Francisco late tomorrow afternoon for my upset special. However, with Seattle at 6-6 and the Niners 4-8, I’m not seeing this being much of an upset. San Francisco has been underachieving mightily this season. Perhaps the preseason projection of San Francisco’s talent – compared with Seattle’s – is why the odds-makers’ favor the Niners. However, with San Fran’s biggest star (RB Frank Gore) out due to injury, I’m really not buying the 49ers this week. Sure, Seattle’s no powerhouse, but it does appear they’ll get top wide-out Mike Williams back this week. Williams or no Williams, QB Matt Hasselbeck has enough to get the job done against a Frisco team with a mediocre defense and few offensive weapons. The Seahawks win by three.

pats 17, BEARS 14 in OT
A intriguing battle takes place at Soldier Field in Chicago today as the 9-3 Bears face the 10-2 Patriots. Tom Brady bears (no pun intended) the NFL’s best quarterback rating, 109.5, and his Patriots have the highest scoring offense (31.6 point per game). On the other end of the spectrum, Chicago owns the league’s 3rd-best defense (allowing 300.3 yards per game). New England comes in to Chi-town on the heels of a 45-point performance on Monday, but don’t expect anywhere near that point total today. The Bears contain the Patriots offense, holding them to 17 points. However, they will not produce enough offense of their own. New England passes its Windy City test with a three-point overtime defeat.

JETS 17, fins 13
Who was the team New England played when they scored 45 points on Monday? That would be the New York Jets, who countered with only 3 points. Things go a bit better for the Jets today. New York hosts mediocre Miami today and defeat the Dolphins by four.

broncos 31, CARDS 17
Denver responds to head coach Josh McDaniel’s firing, albeit against the pathetic Cardinals and their 3rd-string QB, Jon Skelton. The Broncos jump all over Arizona early and go on to win this lackluster battle of 3-9 teams by two touchdowns.

CHARGERS 27, chiefs 10
San Diego (6-6) is chomping at the bit to show its home fans that last week’s 28-13 home loss to Oakland was an aberration. Kansas City (8-4) would like to deliver a death blow to its AFC West counterpart in sweeping its season series against the Chargers and increasing its division lead to three games with three weeks to go. However, with Chiefs starting QB Matt Cassel out today, this challenge will be far tougher than Kansas City’s 21-14 season-opening victory over the Chargers. This afternoon, San Diego avenges that week one loss gets back to playing the type of impressive football that had them on a four-game winning streak before last week’s loss. The Chargers win today, keeping their playoff hopes alive by pummeling the Chiefs by 17.

eagles 34, COWBOYS 30
Game of the Week: With respect to the Patriots vs. Bears, I’m selecting tonight’s tilt between Philadelphia and Dallas to be Week 14’s game of the week. While the game this afternoon in Chicago should be a closely fought defensive battle, the game in Dallas tonight should be a closely fought shootout. Eagles QB Michael Vick brings with him a highly talented offensive arsenal (the NFL’s 2nd-ranked offensive in yards gained). The revived Cowboys, meanwhile, have shown some offensive ability of their own -- after winning just one its first 8 games, Dallas is 3-1 over its last four and averaging 33.25 points over that stretch. Tonight, look for the Eagles and Cowboys to exchange punches several times with Philadelphia landing the final blow in defeating Dallas by four.

ravens 24, TEXANS 17
The 8-4 Ravens fly into Houston tomorrow night hoping to keep pace with AFC North leading Pittsburgh. The Texans (5-7)appear to be in free-fall (losing five of their last six games) and, after a promising start, bound to miss the playoffs yet again. Houston’s offense is very potent, but its defense is awful. Baltimore’s stingy defense holds Houston to 17 points as Ravens QB Joe Flacco passes for 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead his team past the Texans by seven.

giants 27, VIKES 23 (Date/Time TBD due to stadium problems)
All the Brett Favre “will he or won’t he” talk leads to what most expected – Favre makes his 298th consecutive start. However, whether it’s the 40-year-old vet or understudy QB Tavaris Jackson chucking the pigskin for the Purple, the Vikings (5-7) will fall short against the 8-4 Giants tomorrow night in Minnesota. New York QB Eli Manning will have his top two WRs (Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith) back from injury and those extra weapon will help the Giants eke out a tough win and improve to 9-4. Despite the loss, Minnesota WR Sidney rice takes another positive step since returning from his hip injury, hauling in 7 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. Also, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson records his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season to maintain his status as the NFC’s leading rusher.

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