I’ve gone 9-5 two weeks in a row and my season record is now 20 games over .500. Last week, I was able to nail the Dolphins’ upset over the Bills and nearly picked the exact score of the Redskins-Lions game. Let’s see what I can do this week and if I can continue my momentum.
Here’s a look at this week’s matchups and how I think they’ll play out.
Last Week: 9-5
This Week: 11-3
New York Jets (4-3) at Buffalo (5-2)
I like this matchup and I think I’ll have it on the other TV during the Bears game. The AFC East has been particularly strong this season, even with a Brady-less Patriots team and a 3-4 Miami team. The Jets have been energized by Brett Favre this year and the Bills are riding high with a solid defense and a strong running game. Although Favre has played well, he’s still made several mistakes that have hurt his team, and this Bills defense could exploit those turnovers. I like the Bills at home in this one.
Prediction: Buffalo 23, New York Jets 20
Actual Score: New York Jets 26, Buffalo 17
Detroit (0-7) at Chicago (4-3)
Divisional games are typically closer than others because teams have a greater awareness of what their opponents are going to do. That wasn’t the case a month ago in Detroit, but that could be the case this week. The Lions have lost their past three games by one possession, so the slightest misstep could make the difference in this game. Sometimes, bye weeks work out to be an advantage for teams who need to rest some players. Other times, it can become a hindrance and the opposing team can catch them sleeping. I think the former is more likely in this case, but I think the Bears win by a smaller margin than the previous matchup.
Prediction: Chicago 27, Detroit 17
Actual Score: Chicago 27, Detroit 23
Jacksonville (3-4) at Cincinnati (0-8)
This Jaguars team, I’m sure, has given heartburn to their fans all season long. In the preseason, they drew much hype about being the divisional champs this year and making a Super Bowl run following a good season last year. But they started 0-2 — to be fair, those games were against the undefeated Titans and the upstart Bills — and have been an shaky 3-2 since then. Those other two losses were to the Steelers — a top team in the league — and a Browns team last week that is playing much better lately. So, while it’s difficult to pinpoint the real identity of this team, it’s not likely they’re going to be the Bengals’ first victim this week.
Prediction: Jacksonville 24, Cincinnati 17
Actual Score: Cincinnati 21, Jacksonville 19
Baltimore (4-3) at Cleveland (3-4)
This has the makings of a classic division — and franchise — rivalry game. The Ravens — formerly of Cleveland — have fought to four wins with rookie quarterback Joe Flacco leading the way. The defense is solid as usual, ranked first against the run and third against the pass. Cleveland, meanwhile, began the season 0-3 — which included a 28-10 loss to this Ravens team — but have since gone 3-1 and have played much better, even picking up big victories over the Giants and Jaguars. But I think this game still rests in the hands of the Ravens defense, who should shut down the Browns’ offense.
Prediction: Baltimore 20, Cleveland 17
Actual Score: Baltimore 37, Cleveland 27
Tampa Bay (5-3) at Kansas City (1-6)
The Chiefs only victory this season came when they upset the undefeated Broncos in Week 4. Since that victory, they’ve lost three in a row against three good teams: the Panthers, the Titans, and the Jets. A win over the visiting Buccaneers is not far-fetched, but Larry Johnson will miss another game and the Chiefs can’t run the ball well without him. That’ll force them to pass, and the Buccaneers are 7th in the league at stopping it.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 24, Kansas City 14
Actual Score: Tampa Bay 30, Kansas City 27
Houston (3-4) at Minnesota (3-4)
The hardest part about picking this game is weighing the impact of the Texans’ passing attack against the Vikings’ 20th-ranked pass defense and the Vikings’ run game against the Texans’ 21st-ranked run defense. While I don’t deny the Texans’ ability to wing the ball around the field — they’re fifth in the league in passing yards per game — I think the Vikings coming off a bye week, playing at home, controlling the clock and stopping the Texans from running the ball will be the ultimate difference in this one.
Prediction: Minnesota 24, Houston 21
Actual Score: Minnesota 28, Houston 21
Arizona (4-3) at St. Louis (2-5)
Since the firing of Scott Linehan, the Rams have been 2-1 and have played tough in all three of those games. They’ll surely have a lot of confidence against the visiting Cardinals, but I don’t know that their pass defense has improved enough to stop the explosive Cardinals’ passing attack. Arizona is first in the league with 28.6 points per game and the Rams are 4th-to-last with just 16 per game. If the Rams’ defense can’t stop the Cardinals, they won’t win this game, because they don’t have any shot of outscoring them in a shootout.
Prediction: Arizona 31, St. Louis 20
Actual Score: Arizona 34, St. Louis 13
Green Bay (4-3) at Tennessee (7-0)
Green Bay has a real and legitimate shot at handing Tennessee its first loss of the season. The Packers, after a few weeks of struggles, have really come on as of late and are playing well on both sides of the ball. Aaron Rodgers is playing well through his shoulder injury and the team rewarded him with a contract extension through 2014. The defense is also playing opportunistic with 4 interceptions in their last two games — two of those INTs they took back for touchdowns. But the Titans have been on a roll all season, and I think the Packers’ 25th-ranked run defense struggles to stop them.
Prediction: Tennessee 24, Green Bay 20
Actual Score: Tennessee 19, Green Bay 16
Miami (3-4) at Denver (4-3)
This game is tailor-made for an upset. The Dolphins’ three victories this season have all been upsets against teams they probably shouldn’t have beaten. The Broncos, on the other hand, got trounced by a team as bad as the Chiefs, and have been 1-3 in their last four games. But there’s something about playing at home that has aided the Broncos and I think the bye week should have helped them straighten a few things out.
Prediction: Denver 26, Miami 20
Actual Score: Miami 26, Denver 17
Dallas (5-3) at New York Giants (6-1)
One of the biggest rivalries in the NFL, particularly in the past few seasons, the Cowboys and Giants are battling for the NFC East crown. The only problem is that the Cowboys have struggled without Tony Romo, who will miss this game as well with a finger injury. Throwing in the fact that this is a road game for them, the Cowboys ought to struggle getting anything going against the Giants’ 3rd-ranked defense. I think the Giants stay perfect in the division after this one.
Prediction: New York Giants 27, Dallas 17
Actual Score: New York Giants 35, Dallas 14
Atlanta (4-3) at Oakland (2-5)
Atlanta’s offense has been a ray of sunshine this year, but their defense hasn’t been consistent from week to week. Case in point: they’re 4-3, but they’ve given up one more point than they’ve scored through seven weeks. That kind of erratic play can be troubling particularly on the road across the country, but I don’t think the Raiders have enough firepower in them to keep up with the Falcons’ offense. The Raiders’ defense is giving up 25 points per game and they’re 26th against the run, something the Falcons should be able to take advantage of.
Prediction: Atlanta 24, Oakland 20
Actual Score: Atlanta 24, Oakland 0
Philadelphia (4-3) at Seattle (2-5)
It’s been a long time since these guys even worked together, but it’s never too late to bring up the relationship between Mike Holmgren and Andy Reid, two guys with masterful offensive minds who coached together in Green Bay. Philadelphia’s arrow has pointed up this year while Seattle’s has pointed down. Injuries to Matt Hasselbeck and the receiving corps along with a poor defense have caused the Seahawks to stumble to a 2-5 record, and it’s precisely those reasons why they’ll most likely lose to the visiting Eagles this weekend.
Prediction: Philadelphia 27, Seattle 20
Actual Score: Philadelphia 26, Seattle 7
New England (5-2) at Indianapolis (3-4)
Remember when this was the marquee matchup in the league? So did the NFL. That’s why they made it a Sunday night game. But due to injuries and aging players, this has become a second-rate game between two teams no longer considered the best in the league. This has also become a tougher game to predict. Indianapolis can’t stop anybody on the ground and also lost cornerback Marlin Jackson for the season. Easy win for New England, right? Not so fast. I think the Colts’ offense will show up to play in this one and beat New England in a high-scoring game.
Prediction: Indianapolis 27, New England 23
Actual Score: Indianapolis 18, New England 15
Pittsburgh (5-2) at Washington (6-2)
I think this is a great Monday night matchup against two of the league’s top teams. Pittsburgh is No. 1 in total defense as well as No. 1 against the pass, and their third-ranked run defense should also give Clinton Portis trouble. The Redskins’ defense is also fifth against the run, which means this game could come down to what Ben Roethlisberger can do through the air. I really like the way Washington plays at home and this game would be much easier to predict if it were in Pittsburgh. But I still think the Steelers walk away victorious in this one.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Washington 17
Actual Score: Pittsburgh 23, Washington 6