by Ryan Meehan and Ryan Spickler
Coach: Welcome to Week 11 of the NFL Season. Last week we saw the last unbeaten team go down meaning that pop you heard was the 1972 Miami Dolphins champagne bottles simultaneously being uncorked. If that doesn’t get you excited maybe the awesome tie between the Niners and Rams made you feel as unfulfilled as Mike Holmgren’s plan in Cleveland. Week 10 left uncertainty with the Giants after getting blown out by the Bengals and the Dolphins who have now slipped under the Mendoza line at 4-5. The biggest question mark of Week 11 however is the health of quarterbacks Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, and Ben Roethlisberger. I’m not trying to take anything away from Vick’s concussion but Cutler and Big Ben are in the midst of championship aspirations and both have absolutely giant matchups this week. There’s now less than 2 months remaining and with some teams getting into the heart of division play, things could get rough out there in the week leading up to the long holiday weekend. This week is filled with divisional rivalries and has a huge marquee Sunday Night game that features bitter rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore and a huge Monday Night matchup with the Bears traveling to San Francisco to take on the Niners.
Thursday Night Football: Miami Dolphins (4-5) at Buffalo Bills (3-6)
Coach: Both of these teams are coming off extremely difficult weeks for different reasons. Miami who has lost two in a row against teams they should have beat were humiliated at home to the awful Titans whereas Buffalo surprised everyone by almost pulling off a huge upset in New England. As devastating as the Fins’ 37-3 home loss was to Tennessee Miami still finds themselves in 8th place in the AFC playoff picture, still within striking distance of a Wild Card birth. However their last two losses (Colts and Titans) were games that they almost had to win to put themselves in a realistic playoff position. If they would have won both of those games they would be sitting at 6-3 which more than likely would have them at 5th place in the AFC behind New England and Denver. Yes I understand they technically would be tied with New England but I’m just going to go give the Pats the AFC East title for this argument. This is the end of the three game stretch I figured Miami would have to sweep to have a realistic shot because the Fins still have two matchups with the Pats, the Seahawks, and a trip to San Fran all of whom I am predicting will make the postseason. The Bills on the other hand haven’t really had a realistic shot at the postseason in weeks which makes last week’s game against the Pats that much more impressive and at the same time that much more devastating to team morale. The Bills were playing last week for pride and to show they weren’t a pushover and although they came so close they still weren’t able to seal the deal because what is being called a bad run route by T.J. Graham that led to an interception. I’ve seen teams react two ways after games like that, either they continue to play hard or they don’t. For all intensive purposes the Bills outplayed the Pats. They threw for more yards, ran for more yards, and if it wasn’t for the turnover margin the heart of a very determined Bills team may have just pulled it out. In order to stop a desperate Miami team the Bills are going to have to step it up this week the same way they did against the Pats, especially on defense. Both teams should be able to throw the ball pretty well as the weather calls for cool weather but sunny and not the type of forecast that has teams dreading the trip to Ralph Wilson Stadium (there’s a stadium name I like) and both these pass defenses have struggled all year. The spread on this game is -1 to Buffalo and the Dolphins have won 6 out of their last 8 against the Bills which is exactly why I am picking the Bills to win. Buffalo showed what they are capable of last week and going up against another division rival with maybe just enough determination to put together one more good win. For me though the deciding factor when picking this game is Ryan Tannehill who after over 100 passes without an interception threw three against a terrible Titans defense. Before Miami starts winning again Tannehill has to be healthy and I haven’t seen any proof to show me that he is.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Bills 24, Dolphins 21
Meehan’s Pick: Dolphins 27, Bills 16
Arizona Cardinals (4-5) at Atlanta Falcons (8-1)
Coach: Ok everyone in Atlanta take a collective breath, you lost. Still there are 30 other teams who wish they had the same record as you (Houston surprisingly has been able to maintain just one loss). But remember you don’t get any trophy for being the last unbeaten team, having the best regular season record, or making the playoffs. Atlanta has to regroup and stick to their game plan and take out all of their frustration on their next opponent who happens to be Arizona – one of the teams in the NFL who just may be most desperate for a win. They are coming off of their bye carrying the gigantic five game losing streak monkey on their back and their prize for having a week off is a trip to Atlanta to take on a very talented and hungry Falcons team. Really I don’t think this game is going to be much of a contest but one thing to look out for in this game is the passing attack of Matt Ryan and the Falcons going against what actually is a really good Arizona secondary. If this game was home or away I still think the result would be the same but with the spread at -10 Atlanta, there is some intrigue to this matchup. I’m still going to take the Falcons to cover being as how during the Cardinals five game losing streak they have lost by an average of 11.8 points including losing to 14 or more points in three out of their five losses. Cardinal fans will be watching to see if Kolb will be able to return but against a team this talented I really doubt it will matter.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Falcons 31, Cardinals 17
Meehan’s Pick: Falcons 35, Cardinals 23
Cleveland Browns (2-7) at Dallas Cowboys (4-5)
Coach: I know Meehan, games like this make you get on your knees and thank Buddha every day that I agreed to write half the games. That is, unless you are eagerly awaiting the game like the diehard Browns fans. The Cowboys are coming off a win against a not so good Philly “Dream Team” that for once left most of the drama with the Eagles in regards to the concussion to Michael Vick and the ongoing Andy Reid saga. Of course not to be outdone the Cowboys are coming into this week with controversy and drama of their own. The Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1996 which in Cleveland would have fans still celebrating in the streets but in Dallas is just too unacceptable for Jerry Jones’ ego. Right on cue and in time for this week’s matchup the rumor mill is spinning that lame duck Browns “President” Mike Holmgren could be a candidate for the job, if Jason Garrett gets the axe. Of course both Jones and Holmgren have denied the reports but I trust the two of them about as far as I can throw a walrus. (Meehan’s note: We absolutely HAVE to have a walrus throwing contest at some point next year…) The Browns are coming off of a well needed bye week and although I don’t want to rehash my take from last week on current head coach Pat Shurmur, the chances that he is a lame duck seem to increase by the minute. I can’t help but get the feeling that new owner Jimmy Haslam gave “Holmgren’s Plan” from the time he took over the team, about week 7 until now to run its course. Coming off the bye I expect will be more of an audition for the current players and coaches. One of the reasons I’m about 98% sure that Shurmur is out as coach is Haslam’s disgusted and angry expressions from the stands every time Shurmur makes one of his bone head decisions, he looks more like a fan than an owner. I still can’t decide what they will decide to do with the rest of the coaching staff. In all honesty Dick Jauron has done a pretty good job with the Browns defense and outside of a few major injuries and the Joe Haden suspension the defense has looked pretty good. Nobody knows that to think about Brad Childress due to the fact that he doesn’t appear to do anything but sit up in the booth and radio defensive assignments down to Shurmur who calls all the plays. Will they be back? That’s anybody’s guess. The players on the other hand although safer still are going to have to treat the second half of the season as playoff level intensity if they really want to be safe. I do think the Browns are a good young team that with the right coaching and another draft or two could be a real contender in the AFC and whoever makes the cut from here on out will be a part of that. The challenge will be making sure to impress Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner. Onto the game; Dallas only has a record of 1-2 at home in a schedule that sets the Cowboys up for a really easy travel schedule the rest of the way. One of the major factors in the Cowboys game planning undoubtedly will be the health status of running back DeMarco Murray who has missed the last three games with a foot injury. Not trying to take anything away from Felix Jones but the Boys are a much better team when Murray is in the lineup. Jones hasn’t run for more than 92 yards all season and even though the Browns have let up over 500 yards on the ground the last three games, he doesn’t present close to the problem that Murray would. Take away the Cowboys running game at home and they may be in big trouble. Tony Romo has been absolutely awful during his three home games this season. On the road Romo has a qb rating of 102.8 compared to 60.7 at home and even more disturbing is his two touchdowns to TEN interceptions in front of the home crowd. If this keeps up the Cowboys could be in real trouble against a Cleveland team that sports one of the most underrated secondary’s in football. The key for the Browns win is whether or not Trent Richardson will be back t0 1oo% after playing the last few games with injured ribs. The spread on this game is 7.5 and I think this will be the week that the Browns finally get over the hump and win a hard and close game, unless of course Pat Shurmur messes it up.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Browns 19, Cowboys 17
Meehan’s Pick: Cowboys 30, Browns 11
Green Bay Packers (6-3) at Detroit Lions (4-5)
Coach: The Lions should finally be coming to the realization that the playoffs aren’t going to happen this year. Last week was the pinnacle of a must win game the Lions needed to stay alive and instead of taking care of a division opponent they came out flat and ultimately weren’t able to catch up on the road. Had the Lions won last week they would be sitting at 5-4 only a game outside of the playoff picture. Now they are welcoming a fresh Packers team coming off a four game winning streak and a bye week. Most troublesome for the Lions this season is their inability to score in the first half meaning they generally are playing catch-up. This season the Lions have been outscored 107-75 in the first half. a stat that does not sit well going up against the red-hot Packers. This was a game that if you looked at in the preseason would have had you drooling but now most people won’t give a passing thought on except for fantasy reasons. Even though the Lions have a top 10 pass defense I doubt Aaron Rodgers will have much trouble getting and ultimately preserving what will more than likely be a big early lead. If you are a Packers fan the one thing you should be worried about is the play of Ndamukong Suh who not only recently once again got called the dirtiest player in the league but also has been the butt end of a lot of criticism. His numbers are down and that is something that you know isn’t sitting well with Suh which could lead to him playing extra aggressive against Rodgers and the Packs’ offensive line. The spread on this game is -3 for the Packers and I think they should take care of their division opponent.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Packers 30, Lions 21
Meehan’s Pick: Packers 31, Lions 21
Cincinnati Bengals (4-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-8)
Coach: The last few weeks I have spent ripping on both of these teams and how awful they are so what do both of them do? Show up last weekend. The Bengals of course were the more surprising of the two teams by snapping a four game losing streak against the defending Super Bowl Champions in dominating fashion last weekend at home. Most surprising about the Bengals were their ability to get to and affect Eli Manning. Sure Eli has been struggling lately but for a team that hasn’t been able to stop any quarterback of late, that was a pretty impressive task. Perhaps more impressive last weekend was Andy Dalton throwing for 4 touchdowns and the appearance (last week at least) that him and A.J. Green are back on the same page. Perhaps even a more impressive game came from the Chiefs in a losing effort. I’ve been flip-flopping all year from how the Steelers are overrated to how they are still an AFC powerhouse. Lately I was thinking they again were a contender and I thought hands down that the Chiefs were the worst team in the NFL, even way worse than the Jaguars. Then the near impossible happened as the Chiefs went into Heinz Field (a stadium name that just makes me laugh) and pushed the Steelers to the brink by forcing overtime. Yes of course the argument could be made how Big Ben went down early in the second half but remember the Chiefs were tied 10-10 at halftime. Is that saying I think that the Chiefs would have forced overtime with that late fourth quarter field goal? Probably not but I will give credit where credit is due. That brings us to this week which records aside I’m actually kind of curious how this game is going to turn out. Neither one of these teams is going to make the playoffs and Kansas City fans are probably hoping their team loses out to get the number one pick in the draft. Cincinnati hands down has the more talented team and coach but as happens sometimes I just have a feeling that the Chiefs are actually going to show up for this game. I have seen way too many times teams pull a major upset only to come out flat the following week plus Kansas City lost last week but you know they got some confidence points competing that strong against Pittsburgh. The spread on this game is -3.5 for the Bengals but I’m taking the Chiefs to pull out the upset and first home win of the season on the basis of their running game and frankly they impressed me more last week.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Chiefs 24, Bengals 21
Meehan’s Pick: Bengals 24, Chiefs 22
Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) at Washington Redskins (3-6)
Coach: A week ago this was a game that I was looking upon with surprising anticipation, not for the fact that either of these teams are going anywhere this year but because it was going to be a fun quarterback matchup to watch. That was until Michael Vick reopened the concussion debate on what more could be done by receiving a “pretty significant concussion.” Now this week and would ultimately be the end of the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia could be coming to a head. Yes both these teams have 3-6 records but the tale of this game is how both of them are heading in completely opposite direction. The Skins are going through growing pains but make no mistake they are a young team with one of the most electrifying young quarterbacks the NFL has seen since well maybe Michael Vick. The “Dream Team” has slipped even farther this season than they have last year when they were able to get an 8-8 season together. If the Eagles want any chance of sniffing .500 this is a division game that they absolutely must win. Unfortunately for both these teams this game is coming down to injuries. The Skins will be without Piere Garcon although with the skills of RGIII I think the Skins will be able to compensate. The spread on this game is even and if Vick was healthy I would be picking the Eagles but I think Washington will use their home field advantage to beat the very down and almost out Eagles.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Redskins 27, Eagles 24
Meehan’s Pick: Redskins 23, Eagles 18 (Sloppy ass game)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4) at Carolina Panthers (2-7)
Coach: Every time I look at the NFC South standings I still do a double take when I see Tampa Bay sitting in second place ahead of the Saints, I’m going to be honest it impresses me. On the same token for the Panthers who started the season with such promise after beating the Saints have completely done a nose dive into the worst team in the NFC. I’m not trying to say that last year the Panthers were on the verge of a Super Bowl but their future was looking much brighter than it is today. Cam Newton’s sophomore season has been anything but impressive and definitely a major step backwards in his progression. Josh Freeman on the other hand has very quietly been putting up solid numbers and has led his team to a three game winning streak including an impressive win at Minnesota as well as taking care of the struggling Chargers last week. These same two teams also met the first week of the season when Tampa snuck away with a tight 16-10 win at home. All this being said I am picking the Panthers against to 1.5 point spread and to pull off the upset. Although I think Tampa is much farther along the developmental process than Carolina is, Tampa is letting up an embarrassing 321.3 yards a game passing which is worst in the NFL. I would personally take Josh Freeman in a second over Cam but I think this could be the one week this season where the Newton of old shows up but don’t get too excited Carolina, this could be one of your last wins of the 2012 campaign.
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Panthers 17, Buccaneers 16
Meehan’s Pick: Buccaneers 31, Panthers 9
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) at Houston Texans (8-1)
Meehan: The Texans beat the Bears last week in an environment very different from the climate-controlled one that they are used to back in Houston. They beat a very strong Bears team and although that team lost its quarterback halfway through, they proved that they are an all-weather, all business team that can come into your house at anytime and kill you. Houston is the real deal in every aspect of football and I love it. This game as a whole is very difficult for me to analyze because as a potential viewer it leaves me torn – I love watching the Houston Texans play more than any other team in the NFL, but I would rather watch every Tyler Perry movie simultaneously and backwards in Spanish before I would gout of my way to listen to or watch a Jacksonville Jaguars game. Texans roll easy…
Meehan’s Pick: Texans 34, Jaguars 12
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Texans 1,000, Jaguars 3
New York Jets (3-6) at St. Louis Rams (3-5-1)
Meehan: I still hold true to my belief that the Rams at least deserve some credit for holding the 49ers to a tie last week, just like I still maintain that the Jets have stopped playing for Rex Ryan altogether. At least the Rams actually believe in their system, probably because Jeff Fisher is one of the most respected coaches in the game today, and Ryan is a total clown. The press conference he gave Wednesday afternoon was very telling in the sense that he listed so many players injured or at less than 100%. Make no mistake; the Jets are suffering a lot. But, it’s the goddamn Jets and you know they deserve it so you don’t feel that bad… The Rams might be the best team to finish 7-9 this year. I have been very pleased with their continued scrappiness and once again would like to reiterate the importance of good coaching.
Meehan’s Pick: Rams 30, Jets 17
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Jets 20, Rams 16
Indianapolis Colts (6-3) at New England Patriots (6-3)
Meehan: Don’t let the identical records fool you; the Patriots are the better team here. Although the Colts are on a bit of a roll and have the whole Chuckstrong theme working in their favor, New England is looking to take the next step in ensuring that this rivalry is no longer what it once was. Obviously, the one thing missing here is Peyton Manning so it won’t have that same grocery store lighting feel to it that it did before. Fine by me, and that’s on your other TV anyway so relax…I’m guessing that the one Achilles heel the Patriots have right about now would be the fact that they gave up 31 points to Buffalo so you have to watch for them to blow one in a game where they can’t score a lot. It shouldn’t be an issue though because even though the records are dead even, these two teams aren’t really in the same catalog yet. Indianapolis is likely going to get torched on defense and rightfully so as the Patriots just outmatch them at the tight ends…Think about it…who the shit are the Colts going to put on Gronkowski? I like the story that the Colts have had this year and if they win this game I say that’s a milestone for that team, but I just can’t feel as good about picking them.
Meehan’s Pick: Patriots 29, Colts 22
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Patriots 28, Colts 24
New Orleans Saints (4-5) at Oakland Raiders (3-6)
Meehan: You know those cutouts fans bring to games that say “D” and then there is another cutout of a fence? Yeah, the whole crowd could bring those and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. Neither one of these teams have made defense a priority at all – The Saints are ranked dead last in yards allowed per game but Oakland is right on their heels. While New Orleans’ defensive skills are notably lacking, the Raiders can be bad when they choose to and man did they ever choose to last week against Baltimore. Holy hell they do not look good. There has been a lot of talk on radio about whether or not the Saints have dug themselves too deep of a hole to get out of, having lost their first four games. Their upcoming schedule is brutal – they were able to beat Atlanta once but I don’t believe they will do so again, and then you have to figure they also play the Giants down the stretch who will also be fighting for their playoff lives.
Meehan’s Pick: Saints 38, Raiders 29
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Saints 36, Raiders 31
San Diego Chargers (4-5) at Denver Broncos (6-3)
Meehan: This couldn’t possibly be set up any better for me: The Chargers lost to Tampa last week, and the Broncos went in to Charlotte and planted one on the Panthers. It couldn’t be a better summary for how the season has gone for both of these teams – San Diego is one of the most underachieving teams in the league, and…wait, how the hell do they have 4 wins? That doesn’t make any sense. Maybe because they got lucky early on? This time of the year, those typed of teams get curbstomped and the Chargers are ripe for the pickin’. The Broncos are going to eat them alive this time. Denver is about to be a spinning chainsaw so I figure we might as well get started with it…It’s not far fetched at all to think that the Broncos could win a lot of their upcoming games, they have KC, Tampa, Baltimore, Oakland, Cleveland and KC again remaining after they slaughter San Diego…I look for Peyton Manning to manage this game with just the right amount of accuracy as well as just the right amount of insult because he wants to prove they are so much better. I can’t blame him, they are.
Meehan’s Pick: Broncos 37, Chargers 13
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Broncos 28, Chargers 13
Sunday Night Football: Baltimore Ravens (7-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)
Meehan: Early reports indicate that Ben Roethlisberger will be out for a while with the shoulder injury he suffered in the Kansas City game, so it would appear that the Ravens have gotten yet another break on the path where they were supposed to bleed to death as I had predicted. Don’t get me wrong it will still be a tough game for them as the Steelers still have an arsenal of weapons such as Mike Wallace, but the one name that won’t be on that list will be Byron Leftwich. I have to hand it to Lefty though…he knows his place and does work very hard at his position, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be able to get over easy on that Ravens defense regardless of Ray Lewis’ absence. It kills me to do this, but I must…
Meehan’s Pick: Ravens 30, Steelers 18
Coach Ryan’s Pick: Ravens 31, Steelers 19
Monday Night Football: Chicago Bears (7-2) at San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1)
Meehan: This obviously is a tough one. The Bears are coming off of a disappointing loss at home last week after they lost Cutler to an injury in which he may have actually suffered multiple concussions in the same game. I don’t really know how that works, but it certainly doesn’t sound pleasurable by any means. Since both QBs got their bell rung last week, if for some odd reason this game comes down to backup quarterbacks I believe San Francisco will win. Colin Kaepernick is a hell of a lot better than Jason Campbell, even though he has much less NFL experience. Throw that in with the fact that San Francisco likely views last week as a down week in addition to them being at home, and I just can’t see how the Bears can come out of here with a victory. The 49ers don’t turn the ball over a lot and that’s Chicago’s key to success. However, the backup quarterback issue may not even be a factor for San Francisco – This is only Alex Smith’s first concussion and the 49ers are very optimistic that he will be in good shape with that extra day.
Meehan’s Pick: 49ers 20, Bears 13
Coach Ryan’s Pick: 49ers 24, Bears 13
Bye Weeks: The Final Straw
Week eleven marks the last of the bye weeks, and the four teams that get to take the week off could use a break. The New York Giants have lost two straight games – both to AFC North teams – and out of the remaining schedule they have the fifth hardest in the league. As much as it pains me to say so I don’t believe the Giants will make the playoffs this year. Dallas is right on their heels and the Cowboys’ schedule from here on out is a joke. From everything I read New York’s loss to the Bengals last week was even worse than the score or statistics would indicate, and that’s saying a lot because both of those things were pretty terrible to begin with.
The Minnesota Vikings are getting hot again, but they are putting a lot of stress on Adrian Peterson and let’s not forget he is already back early from an injury. They might be able to ride his career year into the sixth slot if a lot of other things happen in the NFC down the home stretch, but is that really going to do them any good in the long run? Very few playoff teams can play inspired football with a below average quarterback, and even TJ Yates thinks Christian Ponder is in over his head. Minnesota will hopefully use their bye week to ice down some of the defensive injuries they’ve had, and when they return they will face
I have no idea what to think about the Tennessee Titans. They come out and look like horse manure early on in the season, then they somehow beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on a short week at home, then they get hot, then they get lit up again, then they switch signal callers, then they smoke the living hell out of the Miami Dolphins who had played great defense up until that point. What gives? They are the only team in the National Football League that you can use the Forrest Gump “box of chocolates” analogy without sounding like a backwoods hillbilly war hero who was also a college football star sitting on a park bench. Nothing the Tennessee Titans do makes any sense at all, and sometimes it makes perfect sense. The only problem is we can never tell which one it is and sometimes when they do things one way the results are complete opposites. Luckily for them, they’re in the AFC so they are right in the thick of things even with a losing record.
Although it may have seemed like a crazy thought at the end of last year, the Seattle Seahawks have just as good of a shot at making the playoffs as any other team. I can tell the Seahawks are the real deal because when they talk about every other team that’s in contention the Seahawks are the team all of those teams are chasing. Seattle got away with a W so the record looks inflated, but they are a good team, especially on defense and special teams. I like me some Seachickens right now, which is something I was pretty certain I’d never say. Russell Wilson may be the least reliable quarterback for a team like that to have under those circumstances, but Seattle is easily a team that could win a playoff game. They scared the piss out of everybody that saw that game too because there was so much backlash (both from myself, and the real media) about them getting in that year and everybody saw the Super Bowl Champion Saints go down. For some reason, that game sticks out a lot as far as games in recent history that still hold a distinct possibility: In this case, that possibility is that no matter how good you might be you may end up losing a playoff game to the Seattle Seahawks. But in a way, that’s the reason that one watches competitive sport, so I’m cool with it.
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Meehan and Coach Ryan