by Ryan Meehan and Ryan Spickler
Coach: It’s hard to believe that it’s already Week 9 of the season and with the potential of some extremely nasty weather heading to the northeast the smell of playoff aspirations are already in the air, unless you’re the Eagles or Jets. Week 8 brought more perfection from the Falcons and quite possibly the worst uniforms in the history of football that even made people from Pittsburgh squeal. The major news story leading up to this week is Hurricane Sandy and if it will have any effects on the slate of NFL games. The forecast calls for clear skies come Sunday but all eyes will be on how much damage happens leading up to the weekend. If all goes according to plan Week 9 will be headlined by the Steelers (hopefully wearing normal uniforms) traveling to New York to take on the Giants. What will happen in that game? Is Michael Vick on the hot seat? Will the real Miami Dolphins stand up? All that and more in this week’s predictions!
Thursday Night Football: Kansas City Chiefs (1-6) at San Diego Chargers (3-4)
Coach: For the last few weeks the NFL has actually done a decent job at making an intriguing Thursday Night matchup, then this happened. In one corner we have the Chiefs who haven’t won a game since they upset the Saints in week 3 and in the other you have the Chargers who haven’t won a game since they beat these very Chiefs in week 4. Outside of both teams being awful they both are going to be neck and neck with Oakland to see who is going to finish last in the AFC West. The last week and a half or so Kansas City has had the most quarterback controversy the NFL has seen since Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre, except they were good. It’s actually ironically enough much more like the one Romeo Crennel had in Cleveland in 2008 with Derek Anderson and you guessed it Brady Quinn. In Cleveland by the end of 2009 Quinn, Anderson, AND Crennel were off the Browns roster and as it often does expect history to repeat itself in Kansas City. The Chargers on the other hand are way too stubborn to make a change at head coach or quarterback. They do have a decent quarterback in Philip Rivers but he is starting to show his age and you know in a few years they aren’t going to be able to rely on backup Charlie Whitehurst. The problem with the Chargers, outside of not being able to use stickum, seems to be internal. I really don’t have proof or some huge news story why but after watching them closely they are a team who are making lots of mistakes and at each other’s throats constantly. You get a real sense that this is a team that is not functioning well on any level and that could mean it is filtering down from the top. Is it Norv Turner, Philip Rivers, or a higher up? It’s all speculation at this point but one thing is for sure the Chargers have to right the ship and quickly. The spread on the game favors the Chargers by 9.0 points which is a lot for a team playing bad football. I do think the Chargers will win due to the fact that the Chiefs are aiming for a number one draft pick but I don’t think they’ll cover the 9 points.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Chargers 21, Chiefs 17
Meehan’s Pick: Chiefs 21, Chargers 10
Denver Broncos (4-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-4)
Coach Ryan: I’m going to start off by saying that Peyton appears to be back to form as he has thrown for over 300 yards in the Broncos last five games. Yes the Broncos are 3-2 in those games but their two losses came from Houston and New England, two teams who are primed for playoff runs. At 4-3 the Broncos may not have the most impressive record but even being barely over .500 I think it’s safe to say that they are heading to an AFC West Title and the playoffs. So far I think Peyton has won and thrown for big games because of the fact that he is Peyton but what happened a few weeks ago when the Broncos came back to beat the Chargers? He started understanding the offense which means that the rest of his division might as well hang up their helmets now. Looking ahead to the rest of the Broncos schedule they don’t even appear to have another huge matchup (outside of the division) until they play the Ravens in week 15. I think that could mean that they are going to coast to the playoffs which could be their Achilles heel when they suddenly are staring at the top teams in the AFC after coming off an easy second half. The Bengals on the other hand are a team that I thought would be much more impressive this season, then again it’s the Bengals. Cincy has the consistent ability to be one of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL. Every few years they go from some miraculous playoff run to missing the playoffs and letting the bottom drop off. With them losing the last three going into their bye week you can only wonder if the same is happening this year. The spread on the game is 3.5 to the Broncos and I think they’ll cover.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Broncos 34, Bengals 17
Meehan’s Pick: Broncos 32, Bengals 20
Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-6)
Coach Ryan: This has been a series that has been almost completely dominated by the Ravens by a margin of 20-7 and a lot of those games haven’t even been close. So then why is John Harbaugh calling this a must win game for the AFC North leading Ravens? It could be because the last time these two teams met in Baltimore on Thursday Night Football the Ravens were lucky to sneak away with a very tight 23-16 win. It could be because the Ravens are a depleted and aging defense and their window to get back to the Super Bowl is closing so this could be their last chance. It could be because the last time these two teams played Harbaugh saw that the Browns are an improving young team. Regardless of the reason this game isn’t going to be a domination type game by the Ravens. Baltimore is still by far the more talented team but as I stated their defense is a shadow of what it used to be and although their offense is still very strong, the Browns defense is finally getting healthy and better than what people think. The AFC North is changing. The Bengals are inconsistent, the Ravens are fading on defense, and the Steelers are overrated and also aging. The Browns, although not quite there yet are getting ready to make a move and the core pieces are there with Richardson, Weeden, Josh Gordon, and Joe Haden. I think both teams are going to look at this game as a statement game. The Ravens need to win this game to assure that they are still a powerhouse in the AFC and more importantly the AFC North. The Browns really want to win this game and will play harder than they did last time they met to show that they aren’t the doormat they used to be and that although not today, soon could be a changing of the guard. The Browns players have stated this past week that they love having new owner Jimmy Haslam around and it is already apparent they want to play hard for him. The spread on this game is only 3.5 and I’m once again going for the Browns in an upset, unless Pat Shurmur finds a way to mess up with the play calling.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Browns 24, Ravens 20
Meehan’s Pick: Ravens 27, Browns 19
Arizona Cardinals (4-4) at Green Bay Packers (5-3)
Coach Ryan: This game gives us a perfect example to tell the story of two teams going completely opposite directions this season. A month ago the Cardinals were sitting at 4-0 with wins over Seattle and New England. They had the top defense in the NFL and were the league’s “WOW” team of the season. Since then the Cards have dropped every game they’ve played including letting Buffalo lead a second half comeback in Arizona. Even though Arizona continues to have one of the top pass defenses in the league their once proud offense hasn’t scored more than 16 points since week 4 against the Dolphins. You take all that into consideration and add that you have to go into Lambeau Field to take on a Packers team that has only lost one game at home all year, to the 49ers. At 5-3 the Packers may not have the record of a top team but you don’t need statistics to know what Aaron Rodgers is capable of. The Packers seem to be coming into their own which combined with how rarely they lose at home and it’s not looking good for an Arizona team trying to stay in the playoff picture. Last week the Packers had an even spread on the Jags and this week the spread is 11 against a better Cardinals team but I’m still taking the spread under the assumption that Arizona won’t be able to do a whole lot against Clay Matthews and the Packers defense.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Packers 31, Cardinals 17
Meehan’s Pick: Packers 35, Cardinals 9
Chicago Bears (6-1) at Tennessee Titans (3-5)
Coach Ryan: Both the Bears and the Titans are coming off of extremely close games. Chicago was able to dodge a bullet with an impressive 16 point rally in the fourth quarter to barely survive a visit from the Panthers which had potential to be one of the bigger upsets of the season. The Titans on the other hand weren’t able to stop the Colts from taking care of business in Tennessee. The spread on this game is only 3.5 which I contribute to Chicago barely escaping at home and now having to go on the road but I still don’t think the Titans will be able to keep up with the defense of the Bears. If Tennessee is hoping to have any kind of chance it’s going to have to come on the ground game of Chris Johnson who hasn’t been anywhere close his elite form. He was only able to get 99 yards against the Colts and now has to go against the top rushing defense in the NFL. Considering how bad the Titans defense has been I would get really excited this week if I had Chicago’s offensive players, Bears with an easy win.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Chicago 31, Titans 13
Meehan’s Pick: Bears 24, Titans 14
Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Indianapolis Colts (4-3)
Coach Ryan: Here is a great example of two teams that are really beginning to surprise me and that is hard to do when you are talking week 9. Yes the Dolphins had a good end to the 2011 season by winning 6 of their final 9 to go 6-10 but did anyone really think that kind of momentum would follow over to this season? Then there is the Colts who went 2-14 last year and won the Andrew Luck lottery by finishing as the worst team in the NFL. Yes I thought Luck would improve the team immediately but once again I never expected them to be above the Mendoza Line this late in the year. It’s because of this confusion with where both of the teams that I am declaring this to be one of the games of the week. Whatever team’s players, coaches, and fans win this game may just start believing in themselves and their team just enough to make it a really fun season. I’m not saying that either of these teams are going to be playing late postseason football but every year there is one team (generally from each conference) that comes out of nowhere to make the playoffs and for the down AFC there’s no reason not to think that one of these teams could make that happen. Who’s it going to be? I originally would have thought to give the edge to the Dolphins but with Tannehill listed as questionable it’s too much of a gamble. The spread on this game is only 2.5 and is favoring the Dolphins to win on the road. I however am going to pick the Colts riding their team high after coming back against the Titans to carry that momentum home and upset the Dolphins. For me it really comes down to the success of Andrew Luck’s passing game going against a very weak secondary for the Fins combined with the status of Tannehill.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Colts 20, Dolphins 17
Meehan’s Pick: Dolphins 27, Colts 18
Carolina Panthers (1-6) at Washington Redskins (3-5)
Coach Ryan: Oh Carolina – you all were so close to making me eat all the words I have said about how your team is a disaster. I mean really? You had what would had to have been in my opinion one of the biggest upsets of the season happening and then you turned back into the Panthers. Washington, you’re not off my list either. I wanted you to beat the Steelers and expose them for being aging and overrated. I really wanted RGIII to have another huge victory to his rookie campaign, yes I still count his victory against the Saints as a huge rookie win. Now you both sit on the bottom of your respected division. Carolina you have no hope this season and can only hope that the new GM of your franchise can clean this up. Washington on the other hand, even sitting at 3-5 can rectify a good year especially one with a rookie quarterback as long as you figure out a way to win at home. I am picking the Skins to win and cover the 3.5 point spread. Usually I throw out some resemblance of numbers and stats to why I am picking the way I am but for this week just by the fact that the Panthers are coming off such a massive defeat and have to go back out on the road to a very loud FedEx Field (another stadium name I hate). That being said I do expect Cam Newton to have a good game against a terrible secondary but I don’t think he has what it takes to overcome what happened last week in Chicago.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Redskins 28, Panthers 24
Meehan’s Pick: Redskins 31, Panthers 23
Detroit Lions (3-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)
Meehan: Is there some sort of FOH mandate for me having to do the writeup for every Jaguars game? I’m starting to think that’s the case, but in this instance I am actually glad to do it because I think it’ll be a better game than most would expect. Even though they lost, I thought Jacksonville played a pretty decent game against the Packers when you consider who they were missing and how overmatched they were. As for the Lions, I do realize that they have won two in row, but something about them still smells funny and it might be their running game, which is ranked 22nd in the league, averaging just a hair over 97 yards a game. I’m still going to take the Lions here, but I think when it comes down to the final six teams in the NFC that will make the playoffs you have to assume that the odds three teams from the NFC North will get in is extremely slim and Detroit will be left out in the rain wondering where it all went wrong.
Meehan’s Pick: Lions 28, Jaguars 26
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Lions 24, Jaguars 17
Buffalo Bills (3-4) at Houston Texans (6-1)
Meehan: If my memory serves me correctly the Texans were the ones who decided to get rid of Mario Williams to the Buffalo Bills, and from the looks of things that was the right decision. Williams and the Bills defense are ranked dead last in the NFL against the run, and have to make the trek down to Houston to face Arian Foster which can’t be the most desirable matchup for them. The Bills are also ranked 22nd against the pass, so if you’re keeping score this could be a lot afternoon for the Bills when the Texans have the football. Wherever you live, it’s likely that this game won’t be on television so you probably won’t have to suffer through it. Personally I can’t wait for the Texans to start playing some better teams to test their strength, they have the Bears coming up in early December and I am looking forward to that game because it could be epic. Now, that’s not to say that seeing them whoop up on the Bills won’t be fun – Just picture JJ Watt making Ryan Fitzpatrick miserable and you can easily see how that would be some serious eye candy. Look for Buffalo to try and run the football a lot, and look for it to not be effective in the least bit.
Meehan’s Pick: Texans 41, Bills 17
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Texans 38, Bills 13
Minnesota Vikings (5-3) at Seattle Seahawks (4-4)
Meehan: Even though neither of these teams are from Missouri, I consider this to be the “Show-Me” game of the week. So what am i looking for? Let’s start with the Minnesota Vikings – Show me that you can go into a hostile environment and win in one of the most difficult places to play in the NFL. Christian Ponder – Show me that in a game with two arguably mediocre quarterbacks that you can be the better of the two, all the while doing so on the road. Show me that your team plans to do more than basically just use Adrian Peterson for everything when it comes to producing offense. In summation, show me that last week’s loss to Tampa (where they could have improved to 6-2) was a freak accident and you’re not going to let it happen again. Since all is fair in love and war, let’s put the Seahawks under the microscope and see what I’m expecting from them. Seattle – Show me that you are also a team that can compete for a playoff spot in a division that we all know you won’t win. Russell Wilson – Show me that you did in fact win that starting job from Matt Flynn in the preseason, and that you deserve it. Show me that you don’t change your attitude and drive to win from week to week, and that with all of the criticism looming at 4-4 you can squash some of the commentary that goes along with having that record in the first place. And last but most importantly, Pete Carroll – Show me that if you win this game, you can exhibit a little bit of professionalism and not run around throwing a hyper fit like a four year old kid on Saturday morning when the Farm Report goes off and cartoons come on.
Meehan’s Pick: Vikings 22, Seahawks 17
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Seahawks 20, Vikings 13
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) at Oakland Raiders (3-4)
Meehan: This game is a rematch of Super Bowl Thirty Seven, which featured two small market teams in one of the lowest rated Super Bowls in recent history. Fast forwarding to this year, although it’s hard to imagine that both of these teams will end up meeting each other in the big game they have both been a little bit more impressive than I have expected. Tampa has one two straight and went into Minneapolis last Thursday and demolished the Vikings, while the Raiders put together respectable numbers in dismantling the struggling Chiefs. In the celebration of the tenth anniversary of that wretched NFL championship game, I’m going to go ahead and pick the same score because the way Tampa is playing I can see how they could put up that many points. When it comes to the Raiders, they have several options. They can curl up into a little ball and try to avoid the repeated steel-toed boot stomping of the Bucs’ footprints, they could just trust Carson Palmer to drop back on every single play effectively ending his career, or they could just not show up which is pretty sad because the game will be played in their home stadium. I think any Oakland Athletics team from the past thirty years has a better chance at winning here than the Raiders do. Hell, I think the 1976 Buccaneers probably would have a better shot at winning this one.
Meehan’s Pick: Buccaneers 48, Raiders 21
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Raiders 17, Buccaneers 14
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) at New York Giants (6-2)
Meehan: So the time has come for me to break down the matchup that features my New York Giants up against the much improved Pittsburgh Steelers in New Jersey. For obvious reasons attendance is probably going to be a little bit lower than usual, and hopefully most people were able to heed the numerous warnings that they were given to evacuate. The Steelers are an odd duck…after a 2-3 start with their only wins coming against two very weak teams (the Jets and the Eagles) they have won two straight and with Baltimore headed downhill and off the mountain to what should turn out to be their imminent death Pittsburgh is in great position to prove that I was wrong when I said they wouldn’t get in. With the way the AFC has been so incredibly unstable this year, nobody is in better shape to get a decent seed than New England or Pittsburgh. Their defense is playing much better (I have a theory it had a lot to do with getting embarassed by the Tennessee Titans a few Thursdays) and because they are doing so it’s given Ben Roethlisberger more confidence and allowed him to calm down at the same time. They are the best team in the NFL in defending the pass, which gives me a perfect chance to transition into Eli Manning and the Giants. Eli has had a bit of a rough stretch over the past two games – he’s won both of them but you get the feeling that coach Coughlin wasn’t satisfied with either performance. He’s going to have his hands full with the Steelers, who usually play the Giants very well. As much as I would love to bag on Coach for him picking his Cleveland Browns to beat the Ravens, this is a little bit different because the Giants are the defending Super Bowl Champions. (At least that’s what I keep telling myself) I believe that Eli will have a big game here and the Steelers will get taken down a notch. However, if that does not happen this is a big wake up call to every AFC playoff contender that the black and gold means serious business. Taking the Giants and going with my gut, even if it means me getting a stomach ache later.
Meehan’s Pick: Giants 24, Steelers 21
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Giants 30, Steelers 24
Sunday Night Football: Dallas Cowboys (3-4) at Atlanta Falcons (7-0)
Meehan: It goes without saying that since I’m a Giants fan I would love nothing more than to see the Cowboys glide into Atlanta ready to turn their nightmare of season around, only to have Tony Romo throw four more picks and make a complete ass of himself on national television. But then I start to think about how we might have to face the Falcons in the playoffs, and the idea of them having any sort of additional momentum scares me to death. On paper the Falcons should be able to smoke Dallas from almost every angle, but remember the Cowboys can be pesky as we saw in that stretch of the New York game where they were able to come back from down 23-0. This will be a little bit different because Atlanta will get to watch all sorts of film from last week’s Dallas/New York game, and if they are smart they’ll focus on that stretch where the Cowboys came back as an example of how not to play defense. Matt Ryan looked great last week and there are still some questions about the Cowboys’ secondary – They tend to give up a lot of big plays and you know Ryan is good for at least two or three of those a game. Julio Jones and Roddy White are both having a great year, and even though their running game hasn’t been as effective as one might expect, they still have Tony Gonzalez at the tight end position for those short yardage situations. I’m taking the Falcons to win because I believe in God and I trust that he will make the right decision here.
Meehan’s Pick: Falcons 27, Cowboys 16
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Falcons 24, Cowboys 17
Monday Night Football: Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (2-5)
Meehan: When the season began, this looked as if it was going to be a marquee matchup. Now it’s just simply another example of how I believe that the league should be able to flex Monday Night games. The Philadelphia Eagles have become the laughingstock of the NFC East, with personnel problems all around and a quarterback controversy to match. But hold the phone – just because I support the Jets benching Sanchez in favor of Tebow, don’t automatically assume that I believe the same thing about the Eagles doing the same thing to Vick in favor of Nick Foles. As a matter of fact, I would consider it to be imperative that Philly start Michael Vick and here’s why: Not only is Nick Foles extremely inexperienced at the NFL level, but you can’t bench the guy the same week the ultimatum is suggested. Vick stated in his press conference that he was very aware that a QB change could be right around the corner, so Andy Reid should consider this Vick’s game to prove to every Eagles fan in the country that Mike gives them the best shot at winning. Now if that doesn’t work and he comes out Sunday night looking sloppy, then you pull the plug because there’s simply no other motivational tactic to use. If he isn’t going to play well against another team that has a struggling defense, there’s no way he’s going to lead them to a sweep of the Giants when those two teams meet at MetLife stadium later this December. Philly is a mess, and I don’t even have the necessary space here to sit and pick apart every little thing that’s wrong with their defense without a book deal. All you need to know is it’s not good. Now that’s not to say that across the field it’s all sunshine and rainbows – For a town where you can order a rum and coke at a drive through window, New Orleans is now having problems coming to terms with the fact that the saving grace which hold the city together, the Saints, aren’t making the playoffs. Let’s say that even if they ran the table from here on out, that leaves them at 11-5 which might get them the six seed. But you, I, and all of Spickler’s stuffed animals know that isn’t going to happen and the turth of the matter is that they are fighting for .500 at best. I haven’t seen all seven Saints games this year, but this is one thing that I can tell you I have noticed – When things aren’t going well for Drew Brees, he isn’t the same happy-go-lucky guy with the positive attitude that he has been in recent years. He gets discouraged a lot easier and although he would never admit it, a lot of that has to do with not having Sean Payton on the sidelines to work him through those slumps. He sort of did admit it in a roundabout way, I recently read an interview with Brees where he said simply not being able to talk to Sean about life in general is beginning to affect him as a person. He didn’t mention how it was affecting him from a football perspective, but Drew Brees plays with his heart and personality as well as his arm so combined with their 2-5 record it’s pretty easy to see that it is influencing his decision-making abilities on the field. Even though both of these teams are a garbage fire in the center of a landfill, New Orleans is less of one so I’m going to go ahead and take them.
Meehan’s Pick: Saints 29, Eagles 23
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Eagles 19, Saints 17
Bye Weeks: New England Patriots, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams
Both the Rams and the Patriots had long flights back to the states early this week, but I’m assuming the Rams’ was the more depressing of the two as they got worked at Wembley Stadium. New England doesn’t need to change anything at all, they just need to make sure that they don’t let games get away from them in the manner the Seattle and New York games did. I was pretty high on St. Louis for a few weeks there – they looked really good in a couple of games but they haven’t been able to maintain enough offensive stability to prove that they are anything close to a playoff contender. San Francisco has the perfect time for a bye week – it’s in the exact middle of the season coming off of a Monday Night game against Arizona which they blew the doors off of the Cardinals. They also crushed any lingering questions regarding their long-term staying power. The New York Jets are faced with the same question the media is presenting them with: When is Rex Ryan going to pull his head out of his ass and start Tim Tebow? With an extra week to think about it there’s no doubt in my mind that if he hasn’t already announced that he’ll make the change, he won’t because he’s a stubborn as hell and it may end up costing him his job. The Jets are now 3-5 and don’t appear to be making any progress, as evidenced by last week’s drubbing at the hands of the Miami Dolphins. I say if there’s any time to start Tebow (besides two weeks ago) it would be now because he’ll have that extra week to get the offense down.
Additional Note: Even though the 49ers are on their bye week, I did want to take a brief moment to compliment Alex Smith on the unbelievable job he did managing that Arizona game on the road. He went 18 for 19, and that’s no number to just let fall by the wayside. Now, if you listen to some of these fantasy dipshits and NFL analysts you might have seen or heard that number do just that, because technically since Smith didn’t have twenty pass attempts it can’t be considered in the record books as one of the better QB showings in NFL history. Let me just verbally kick those people in the throat for a moment – What is it exactly that you expect out of the guy? It’s his job to effectively manage the games that he plays in, that’s exactly what he did and they won 24-3. Who cares what “doesn’t count”? That’s completely insane and gives a totally inaccurate ruler by which to measure a quarterback in the National Football League. Instead of telling us what it doesn’t tell us, why not discuss what it does? Ok, fuck it…I’ll do it…A quarterback who plays for a 6-2 team approaching their bye week and puts up those numbers tells me the following things – 1) 18 for 19 is Super Bowl MVP type-accuracy, really the only thing that crosses my mind as even coming close wouuld be Phil Simms in XXI. It is of no fault of the quarterback for only needing to throw the ball 19 times, which brings me to my next point – 2) The running game was obviously working for the 49ers, so there was no need for Alex to get crazy with the ball. As the Fresh Prince once said: “If it ain’t broke then don’t try to fix it…” Also, 3) The 49ers were trying to manage the game so that they would be able to sit certain starters towards the end of the game because at that point it was going to be out of reach. I get the fact that every coach tells the media that they want their guys to give it their all, but let’s be realistic here – Arizona wasn’t going to win that game on Monday Night. They never had a chance in hell. The 49ers obviously saw this (who better to know how toy they truly were than someone in their own division?) and put themselves in the position where they could get up early and then sort of hang back. You can call it whatever you want to call it, but that’s exactly what they did. The point here is Alex Smith threw one of the best games you’ll likely never hear about again.
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Meehan and Coach Ryan