So last week’s picks went 3 from 6 as the Texans, Dolphins and Panthers let me down. That’s the first time Carolina have let me down on the spread this year. I thought Houston were in with a shout after another lousy second half start by Buffalo but a pick and a quick turnover on downs put pay to that one as Buffalo improved to 6-6 and are level with Houston in the AFC playoff picture. The Colts join them there after a rather humbling 45-10 loss to Pittsburgh. The Patriots stumbled against Philadelphia and have now lost two straight. They stay in control at the top of the AFC East but the win keeps Philly alive in the NFC East. Green Bay had a lucky escape in Detroit thanks to a negligible facemask penalty which lead to Aaron Rodgers doing Aaron Rodgers type things. A 61 yard hail mary as the clock expired to take a 27-23 victory. That puts them back on top of the NFC North thanks to the Seahawks hammering the Vikings 38-7. Minnesota couldn’t get any game going at all and only got 7 points from a kick-off return. No team can win a game when the offence doesn’t score a single point. Chicago dropped back as well with an overtime loss against the 49ers, San Francisco are probably wishing they’d put Gabbert in earlier in the year, they look a different side with him compared to Kaepernick. The Falcons lost their fifth straight game against the resurgent Buccaneers who move ahead of Atlanta in the NFC South. Carolina squeaked past New Orleans to stay unbeaten and clinch the division in a game that was much closer than most would have expected. With two games against the Falcons, the Giants and the Bucs left on the schedule they can go 16-0 but will need to tighten up the defence come January. The Titans got their third win of the year in a 42-39 win over Jacksonville mainly thanks to some great play from Mariota. The Cardinals crushed the Rams 27-3 and the Bengals went even further in a 37-3 win in Cleveland. The Chiefs overcame another rocky start to ease past Oakland and win their sixth straight game and look a threat for the playoffs. Unbelievable to think this team was 1-5 earlier in the year! They’ll probably not catch the Broncos but they certainly look good for a wildcard. Denver won a dull game in San Diego and the Dolphins held on to win against the Ravens. Dallas won another game, this time against the Redskins which keeps the entire NFC East under .500. To think one of these teams is going to the playoffs is awful. It’s becoming an embarrassing repeat of last year’s NFC South.
Vikings@Cardinals – TNF
What a difference a week makes. I was clearly wrong about the Seahawks game as Minnesota totally failed to make an impression with only 125 yards of total offence. Peterson was held to only 18 yards. Arizona will have been watching that closely because they’ll need to do the same thing this week. The Cardinals blew the Rams out of the water to stay in control at the top of the NFC West and will be looking for another win here on a short week. I would have had this spread nearer 3 or 4 so the 7.5 starting price gave me a start. I think it’s a bit of an overreaction personally after a big win for Arizona and a big loss for Minnesota. The Vikings can bounce back a bit here in my opinion and get more of a ground game going than they managed last week. I’m tempted to go with the Vikings with that +7.5. Bear in mind the Vikings do have a slightly depleted defence this week with injuries and Palmer and the Cardinals will certainly try and exploit that.
Both teams surprised me last week getting wins but I doubt anyone saw the Patriots falling at home to Philadelphia. The Eagles didn’t really have a great offensive game but their special teams and defence did a great job. Buffalo played similar to how they did against Kansas, a strong first half and a lead at halftime before keeping their punter busy in the second half. Sammy Watkins showed that good things continue to happen if you throw him the ball with over 100 yards from just 3 catches and a score for his afternoons work. LeSean McCoy went down in the fourth quarter but cleared concussion protocol very quickly on his way to another 100+ yard game. The bookies have made Buffalo 1 point favourites for their trip to McCoy’s old side (bank on Rex Ryan making him a captain this week then) and I think that’s fair. Philly aren’t a great side this year but if they can put up some points with this quick offence Buffalo will struggle to put enough up to cover them. This will be a big test for the defence, getting a couple of picks will make the afternoon a lot easier for the Bills.
Tennessee edged an all-out scoring battle with Jacksonville last week thanks to some great play from their rookie quarterback. If you haven’t seen his 83 yard rushing touchdown get yourself onto youtube for it. Fantastic awareness of a lane opening for a chance of a first down and then some good blocking from his teammates for one of the best plays of the day. The Jets needed overtime to get past the Giants and aren’t looking quite as good as they were earlier in the year on either side of the ball. They are doing enough at the minute to get into the playoffs and another win this week will keep them in the pound seats. They’re 7 point favourites here. Tennessee haven’t lost by a margin that big since their week 10 loss to the Panthers (27-10).
The Bengals edged this one last time 16-10, since then the Steelers offence has been getting better and better. The Colts might not be the team they were last season but to put 45 on any team is an accomplishment. Pittsburgh can still technically catch Cincinnati for the AFC North and a win here would put them 2 games behind but with similar schedules it’s going to be too big an ask. They do need a win to stay in the wild card fight, Cincinnati will want the win to stay in the pound seats for a playoff bye. Home favourites by 3 keeps it tight, hopefully we’ll get a few more points than that week 8 matchup to keep it entertaining. I’m not sure which way I’m leaning… maybe towards Pittsburgh? Tough call.
More uncertainty for the Colts at quarterback after Hasselbeck went off injured in last week’s loss against Pittsburgh. They’re fairly confident he will play as Andrew Luck won’t be ready until next week at the earliest but without him they’re left with a third string quarterback who has 9 starts in 9 seasons. For a team that has been so up and down this year they’ll want some stability at QB. The Jaguars will want to get the win to help with their slim playoff chance. At 4-8 they should be well out of it but in the AFC South this year it is still possible they make it. I kind of hope they do, just for laughs! No spread on this yet with the uncertainty around the guy taking snaps for the Colts, with Hasselbeck it’ll likely be around -5 Colts I think, without him and the Jags will probably be made favourites.
San Diego were blown out last week in the first half by Denver who just sat back in the second half where there was no score. Kansas took a while to get going but thanks to some awful play from Carr they got hot in the fourth quarter and came away with a big win. More of the same here, they’ll ease into the game and grind away at the Chargers and come away with their seventh straight win. At 9.5 point favourites I’m tempted to back San Diego as Rivers is capable of putting up scores despite not having much to throw at. Kansas don’t have a defence as strong as Denver who held the Chargers to 3 so Rivers can probably lead his team to a couple of scores. It’s a question of how much Kansas can get. Tough call on a big spread like this.
Chicago are out of it now in the NFC North with that OT loss against the 49ers leaving them with a 5-7 record. They’ll be annoyed that the Redskins are still in with a hope of winning the putrid NFC East with the same 5-7 record. Washington were in that pathetic game with the Cowboys with 18 points in 58 minutes and then 17 in the last 2! If Washington play like that again Chicago will easily put them away. Cutler had a bit of an off day last week but has been very good for most of the rest of the year. If he plays like that again despite being out of the playoff picture the 3.5 point spread will be childs play. It depends how misery Jay takes it.
Will Carolina take their foot off the gas now they’ve tied up the NFC South for the third year running? Or will they go for it all and try and stay unbeaten? Differing opinions for this. Should they rest starters to eliminate the risk of injury so they’re around in the playoffs or will that mean they lose momentum? Carolina without Cam Newton in the playoffs are one and done so they won’t want to risk an injury to him, and he has been taking hits. But will a Panthers team strolling into the playoffs with him well rested and out of practice be any better? It depends what Ron Rivera decides to go with here but Carolina can do the Falcons in. They had a bit of a scare in New Orleans last week but Atlanta are nosediving and Matt Ryan just isn’t playing anywhere near his best to keep them in with a shout. I can’t believe how far they have fallen with 5 straight losses but they are playing terrible football at the minute. Carolina are 7 point favourites.
New Orleans came close last week in that 41-38 battle with Carolina and could have taken the win if it wasn’t for a dropped pass on fourth down. Tampa did enough to put Atlanta down and have won 3 from 4 to improve to 6-6. The Saints will want to break their losing streak, having lost 4 straight and I think they can manage that this week. Tampa are 3.5 point favourites but I think even without Mark Ingram who is out for the season with a shoulder injury, New Orleans will get it done on the road.
I’m not sure why the Rams are favourites here. They’ve lost 5 straight and given up 132 points in those games. You can’t expect to win many games giving up that many points, especially when you’re averaging scoring less than 15 per game! Detroit had won 3 straight and then lost on the back of a Hail Mary against the Packers. Stafford is playing better than he has all year and the Rams have just fired their offensive coordinator.
And Johnny Manziel is back in. I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry about the Browns! Their quarterback situation is like the hokey cokey!! I think people should probably get off Manziel’s back a little. He’s obviously got a few problems but I don’t think you’re going to stop a guy who is renowned for partying from doing so. He’s young, rich and in his dream job. Would you not be partying on your weekend off? Maybe Cleveland keep the drama-o-meter cranked up to full so nobody will talk about just how completely awful their football team is! The 49ers are looking better under Gabbert and have won or been in with a shout against better teams, I think they’ll take this one. Cleveland are favourites (really?!) by a point and a half. I’m taking San Francisco.
Barring a horrific accident which takes out the Seattle team bus this is only going to go one way. Baltimore might have kept games close this year with only one game being decided by more than 7 points. Seriously, this is their record – lost by 6, lost by 4, lost by 4, won by 3, lost by 3, lost by 5, lost by 8, won by 3, lost by 2, won by 3, won by 6, lost by 2. I think that might be about to get smashed. Seattle are coming hot at just the right time to make a good playoff run. Wilson is playing out of his mind well and Rawls is a perfect stand in for the injured Marshawn Lynch. No spread on this yet but I think it’ll be big. Anything under 10 and I fancy Seattle to take it.
Can Brock Osweiler go 4-0 as a starter? Yep. Oakland have dropped off in recent weeks but are certainly building a strong team. Carr made some big mistakes last week when the Chiefs came to town and Denver can certainly get some interceptions if he doesn’t improve his decision making and his receivers don’t get some more separation. Denver are 7 point favourites which is more than they had against San Diego last week. People are starting to have faith in Osweiler. I think 7 is definitely do-able for this Broncos team but they need to put up some points again. Oakland like a shootout, remember that Steelers game in week 9? Carr was magnificent in that game. We haven’t really seen that from Denver. Their defence should stop it turning into a shootout but they need to get past having a great defence and become a great all round team. They’ve got the pieces, they need to get to work together.
Dallas won a game and are still (somehow) in a position to fight for a playoff spot at 4-8. I think the NFL should make a rule that no team with a losing record should be allowed into the playoffs. We’re a couple of upsets away from a Cowboys@Jaguars Super Bowl!! Nobody wants that – well, maybe Jerry Jones, but he doesn’t seem to mind having Greg Hardy on his team so who cares what he thinks?! Green Bay played better last week but I still don’t have faith in this team. Rodgers isn’t hitting his targets when he’s on the run like he used to and a lot of times the passes are still being dropped. The Packers are not a scary proposition right now. They should be able to get a win here, Dallas aren’t really strong enough to stop Rodgers for a full 60 minute game and Matt Cassel just isn’t good enough to, well, be an NFL starter. Green Bay are 7 point favourites. They’re certainly back-able but it’s whether or not you trust them to not mess it up.
Can Houston bounce back from that loss in Buffalo and deal the Patriots their third straight loss? New England are in trouble without their usual starters and that’s been reflected in them only being 3 point favourites here. Edelman is still out and Gronk didn’t practice on Wednesday so is doubtful for Sunday. Will we see another play where Brady is the receiver like in Philadelphia? I doubt we’ll see the drop kick play again! How many times will we see JJ Watt get to Brady? Without his favourite targets his release has slowed down and that will be music to the ears of JJ Watt! New England are a much better side than Houston, even without a bunch of star players, but Houston are still in with a shout of that AFC South title… they’ll be out to pound the Patriots. Normally this would be an easy call for New England but I’m unsure. Are they really in that much trouble?
Giants@Dolphins – MNF
Does Coughlin regret that fourth a 2 call from last week yet? He says he doesn’t but Pete Carroll says he doesn’t regret the pass call from last year’s Super Bowl! It was a ballsy call, and I like teams that go for it on fourth down but with a chance to make it a 13 point game with less than 9 minutes to play? I’d have kicked the field goal. This team should know what it’s like to give it up in the fourth quarter this year. I don’t think they should have the same issues against Miami, New York are a much better team and I fancy them to get the win on the road here. They’re favourites by a single point.