Friday, November 6, 2009

NFL Picks Week 9

Welcome to my NFL picks segment week 9 edition. Coming off an impressive showing last week in which I went 11-2, I look to keep up the trend and help you pick the winners and possibly win some cash. This week is full of intriguing match-ups so let’s get started and find out who will prevail.

Redskins (2-5) at Falcons (4-3)

Washington remains dreadful and I say this while they come off a bye. Excuse my criticism, but Dan Snyder has yet to get all the right pieces in place. Coach Jim Zorn looks like he has been all but removed from duty and the Redskins offense has yet to find any kind of rhythm. That may be the understatement of the year. Washington enters the week ranked 24th in total offense.

Atlanta enters the week losing 3 of 5 and have yet to play up to their full potential offensively. Atlanta gave it a valiant effort on Monday against the Saints, but the comeback attempt fell short. The key for the Falcons is to stay committed to the running game. Running back Michael Turner piled up 151 rushing yards but most of it came in the first half. The defense is vastly improved and this team is primed for a breakout game.

My Take:

Expect the Redskins to come out running the ball attempting to establish the pace of the game. Doing so will keep Atlanta's offense off the field. The Washington defense has played very well and currently rank 4th in the NFL in total defense; a number that should not be over looked. However, I expect the Falcons to come out swinging. They are undefeated at home thus far and hosting an opponent who has yet to win on the road. Expect the Atlanta defense to force a couple turnovers to get Matt Ryan and company back on the field.  Falcons win comfortably 27-17.

Cardinals (4-3) at Bears (4-3)

This could be the scariest game to pick the entire weekend. The Cardinals enter Soldier Field with more question marks than my golf game. Two weeks ago Arizona went on the road and handed it to the Giants. Last week, they hosted a Carolina club that arguably has been the most disappointing team of the season, and got worked over. Quarterback Kurt Warner committed six turnovers and the Cardinals were routed at home. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin re-injured his ankle and the Cardinals' usually stout run defense was exposed.

The Bears are a similar story. Two weeks ago they were blown out at Cincinnati, and last week won by 24 points. However, there are two important things to note about last week’s victory. First, they played the Browns. Second, it wasn’t as dominant as a 30-6 final would typically indicate. Chicago is still looking for an identity on offense. The running game has been a factor in two games this year, against Detroit and against Cleveland. That hardly counts. The good news for the Bears is that the defense showed up against an anemic Cleveland offense and held them to only six points.

My Take:

This is a huge game for both teams. The Cardinals potent offense has regressed considerably as they rank 18th overall. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been good but not nearly as dominant as last season. The Bears defense has played solid despite the one game at Cincinnati, are ranked 11th overall and have played well despite numerous injuries. I like the Bears in this one, which could be a must win for Chicago as division leader Minnesota is on a bye. A win gets the Bears two games back in the NFC North with two games to play against the Vikings. Bears win a close one 27-24.

Texans (5-3) at Colts (7-0)

The Texans travel to Indy off a bitter sweet victory. Houston lost stud tight end Owen Daniels to a season ending knee injury, but did receive 3 touchdowns from third string running back Ryan Moats. Starting running back Steve Slaton was benched after committing his 7th fumble of the season. The Texans offense remains explosive behind quarterback Matt Schaub and all-pro receiver Andre Johnson. They will continue to score points, and head coach Gary Kubiak has the guys playing very well.

The Colts are coming off their first true test of the 2009 campaign, an 18-14 win over San Francisco. Coming off a game in which Peyton Manning threw zero touchdowns. It took a half back pass by Joseph Addai to Reggie Wayne to finally find the end zone last week, but this week the Colts could be in store for an offensive explosion. The Texans currently rank middle of the pack in defense, but they have yet to face an offense anywhere near the level of the Colts.

My Take:

There will be points-a-plenty in this one. Expect both quarterbacks to shine and throw the ball over the field. It will be interesting to see how coach Kubiak handles his running game as well as replace tight end Owen Daniels. There are too many question marks for me to pick the Texans. I put my money in the hands of the professor, Manning, and expect the Colts to roll 35-26.

Ravens (4-3) at Bengals (5-2)

Baltimore is coming off a big win over the previously undefeated Broncos. I say previously because Baltimore handled Denver 30-7 last week. The defense returned to form last week allowing only 7 points and keeping the Broncos offense limited all afternoon. Quarterback Joe Flacco played mistake free and running back Ray Rice continues to carry the load for the Ravens' offense.

Cincinnati has got to be feeling confident with their current position. The Bengals are coming off a bye as well as a massacre over the Chicago Bears in which, quarterback Carson Palmer threw 5 touchdowns. Running back Cedric Benson could be comeback player of the year. He and the other members of the Bengals offense are showing that this Cincinnati team is no joke. It was only four weeks ago when Cincinnati came from behind to beat the Ravens on their home field field with seconds left to play. Coach Marvin Lewis has his squad playing well on both sides of the ball and if they continue to improve they could be in store for a division title.

My Take:

Both teams are very familiar with one another so I don't think that home field advantage is a determining factor in the matchup. Earlier in the year I picked the Ravens to represent the AFC in this year’s Super Bowl. While they may not be the team to beat in the AFC right now they are still a factor. The Bengals continue to improve and should not be over looked. However, I give a slight edge to the Ravens. The Ravens three losses this season have come to teams with a combined record of 17-5. I like Baltimore 20-16.

Chiefs (1-6) at Jaguars (3-4)

Kansas City will be without their starting running back this week after Larry Johnson decided to ridicule head coach Todd Haley and use homosexual slurs when talking with the media. Bummer. I am sure his 2.7 yards a carry and 0 touchdowns will be missed. The Chiefs currently rank 27th in total offense and 30th in total defense, not typically the recipe for success.

Jacksonville is looking to rebound after allowing the Titans to pick up their first win of the season. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew continues to shine but he looks to be the only one. David Garrard and the Jaguars passing attack has yet to display the consistency to keep opposing defenses from focusing on Mojo. The Jags defense also ranks towards the bottom, checking in at 24th overall.

My Take:

The Jags needed every second to beat the then winless St. Louis Rams at home, and this contest may not be any different. Both teams have dreadful defenses and are likely looking forward to 2010. I am going Jacksonville here but likely will not be pretty. Jags win 30-20.

Packers (4-3) at Buccaneers (0-7)

Packers head to Tampa after a long week in which they spent an extreme amount of time facing the media, hearing about former quarterback Brett Favre. Unfortunately for them they lost to Minnesota last week 38-26. Fortunately for Green Bay they get to square off against the league’s only remaining winless team,  Tampa Bay. The Packers need to gain some consistency in their running game, otherwise quarterback Aaron Rodgers is going to continue to get knocked around. The Pack has shown a commitment to running the ball when they face bad teams, and Sunday against Tampa should be no different.

On the positive side the Bucs didn't lose last week. Unfortunately they didn't win either. Under first year coach Raheem Morris Tampa has struggled mightily. They currently rank 28th in both offense and defense, and now they turn to their third different quarterback in seven games. The strength of this team might be in the running game where their most experience players are present. Cadillac Williams has been okay, but a mix of him and Derrick Ward might do this team some good.

My Take:

I have no idea how the Bucs could pull an upset here. The Packers defense has improved and Tampa’s offense remains short, slow and ineffective. Packers will roll 31-10.

Dolphins (3-4) at Patriots (5-2)

Remember last year when the Dolphins walked into Foxboro, pulled out the wildcat and ran all over the New England defense? Well it did happen and in the end it turned out to be why Miami made the playoffs and the Patriots did not. The Fins strolled into the Meadowlands last weekend and handled the Jets a different way, with defense/special teams. Miami scored on two kickoff returns by Ted Ginn, as well as a fumble return by Jason Taylor. This is a very scrappy team that many over look but they play hard and don't waver from the game plan.

All the nice things that I previously said about the Dolphins may be irrelevant however because the Pats did not have their leader, Tom Brady, in 2008. Brady was out with a season ending knee injury, and after an un-Brady like start he seems to be regaining form. New England is fresh off a bye, as well as a 59-0 beat down in the snow over the Titans. Wide receiver Wes Welker seems healthy again and has given Brady the security to toss the rock all over the field. The defense is coached very well and won't allow games to get out of hand.

My Take:

I picked the Fins last week and loved it. I won't be doing so here. New England comes off a bye and history tells us that Coach Bill Belichick will be ready for Miami and the wildcat offense. Expect the Pats to line up with four and five receiver sets and throw the ball all over the field to Welker and Moss. I don't think Miami stops Brady and the Pats and New England rolls 34-17.

Panthers (3-4) at Saints (7-0)

Carolina enters the Superdome coming off a very impressive win at Arizona. Carolina stuck to its strength and ran the ball right at the Cardinal defense and prevailed. In a season full of disappointment the Panthers still have the talent to be a factor. If quarterback Jake Delhomme can protect the football this team should continue to improve and possibly be a player down the stretch. However there are a lot of "ifs."

What can you say about the Saints other than that they are potentially the best team in the NFL. Led by an outstanding quarterback and turnover-happy defense, the Saints are undefeated and look as every bit of good as advertised. The running game might be the biggest factor to the Saints flawless start, as they currently rank 4th in rushing offense. Give Drew Brees a potent running game and the offensive opportunities are endless.

My Take:

It would not be completely crazy to think the Panthers could pull this off. Both these teams are very familiar with one another and usually play each other very tough. The difference this season is no-one knows which Panthers team will show up. I am not willing to bet that the good Carolina team is the one out there on Sunday. What I am willing to bet on is that Drew Brees and the Saints offense continues control the clock and efficiently maneuver down the field. If the Saints can hold the Panthers rushing game in check this will be a laugher. If the Panthers rush well, the Saints will still win by a score. Either way the Saints win, 31-20.

Lions (1-6) at Seahawks (2-5)

The Lions enter the week 9 matchup after a brutal loss at home to the St. Louis Rams. The Motor City Kitties have given solid effort in their contests but simply do not employ the talent to compete at a consistent level. It also doesn't help that their best player, Calvin Johnson, continues to be hindered by a knee injury.  The Detroit defense also continues to rank at the bottom of the league.

Seattle failed to come through on my prediction last week.  If you remember correctly I picked the Seahawks to fall short to the Cowboys, but I did predict a competitive effort from the club.  That wasn't the case in a 38-17 win for the Cowboys.  The Seahawks return home where they're always tough, and quarterback Matt Hasselback should be one week healthier.

My Take:

I don't see the Lions defense being able to stop the Seattle offense.  The Hawks should be able to pass all day with little resistance.  If Calvin can play the Lions could keep this close for a while but it sounds like he is still very "iffy."  I like Seattle in a route, 30-9.

Titans (1-6) at 49ers (3-4)

The Titans got their first win of the season last week after beating the Jaguars 30-13.  Coach Jeff Fisher turned to Vince Young to give the team a jump start and it paid off.  Chris Johnson remains the Titans lone threat, as he leads the league in rushing with 824 yards.  This is the best 1-6 team in NFL history.

The Niners have got to be wondering what they must do to get a win.  In week 3, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre daggered San Francisco with a 32 yard touchdown pass with only seconds remaining, and last week against the undefeated Colts the 49ers led for much of the first three quarters.  But a touchdown pass from running back Joseph Addai to Reggie Wayne sealed the deal for the Colts.  San Francisco is improving under Coach Mike Singletary and is no slouch for any opponent.

My Take:

I can go either way in this one because I do think the Titans are much better than the record indicates.  However, Chris Johnson may have a tough day when facing the league's 2nd ranked run defense in San Francisco.  I expect the Niners to make Tennessee one dimensional and make Vince Young beat them.  I don't think Young comes through and I like the Niners in a battle 20-17.

Chargers (4-3) at Giants (5-3)

San Diego continues to be one of the league’s most overrated teams.  Yes they are above .500 but their four wins have come against Oakland (twice), the Chiefs, and the Dolphins.  The defense has a hard time stopping the run and the interior lines continue to struggle.  The good news is LaDanian Tomlinson looks healthy and the passing game remains potent.

The Giants are falling, fast.  They have lost three in a row and have been blown out in two of those contests.  The defense has been exposed and the Giants offense seems to be sputtering.  Running back Brandon Jacobs has not been nearly as good as last year, and Eli Manning seems to be affected by the foot injury he sustained early in the year.  Once regarded as a top team in the league the G-men now look like a very mediocre club.

My Take:

I fully expect the Chargers offense to move the ball on New York.  I also fully expect the Giants to move the ball on San Diego.  This game will come down to line play, and the Giants offensive and defensive lines are far superior to the Chargers.  I like Jacobs to reach pay dirt and the Chargers lack of consistency is worrisome.  I take the G-men 27-24.

Cowboys (5-2) at Eagles (5-2)

Dallas comes into the prime time showdown riding a hot streak.  Romo has regained his composure and is playing as good as any.  Possibly the saving grace for the Cowboys might be Miles Austin.  In the past three games Austin has piled up 482 yards and 5 touchdowns.  The defense has come around and is getting after the quarterback and forcing turnovers.  The Boys look tough and might be the NFC East favorite.

I picked the Eagles to fall short last week against the Giants.  Instead they trounced New York 40-17.  Donovan McNabb is back healthy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson can strike from anywhere on the field.  The defense remains tough and is blitzing more than ever before.  The concern for Philly is the concussion suffered by running back Brian Westbrook.  It sounds like Westbrook will play but how much is yet to be determined.

My Take:

This will be another typical NFC East battle.  These teams do not like each other one bit.  Dallas comes in hot and Philly looks like they are long removed from the embarrassing loss in Oakland.  Both teams have an abundance of talent so neither will back down.  I give the edge to the home team Eagles.  This offense is clicking and the defense isn't allowing teams any time to make adjustments.  Coach Andy Reid will dial up the winning scheme and Philly will beat Dallas, 23-20.

Steelers (5-2) at Broncos (6-1)

Pittsburgh is coming off a bye and safety Troy Polamalu should be well rested.  The Pittsburgh offense has been tremendous thus far as Big Ben has thrown the ball all over opposing defenses.  The defense remains solid but perhaps not as dominant as a year ago.  Running back Rashard Mendenhall gives the Steelers explosiveness and is a dual threat.

Denver enters Monday night after taking one on the chin last week against Baltimore.  They were rolled 30-7 and the defense wasn't as good as it had been in the previous six games.  The offense is balanced but I wonder if they have enough explosiveness to keep opposing defenses honest.  Josh McDaniels is a good coach and will have his men ready to play the defending Super Bowl champs on Monday night.

My Take:

Pittsburgh is very similar to the Ravens team that beat Denver last week.  Coach Mike Tomlin doesn't care who he plays or what day they play on.  Regardless, the Steelers will show up and hit teams in the mouth.  Denver will rely on balanced offense and stout defense, but overall the Steelers are a better team and will prove it Monday as they beat Denver 26-17.

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