by Ryan Meehan and Coach Ryan
Week seven in the NFL stumbles into the emergency room bruised and battered, but trudges on nonetheless. Last week gave us an instant classic in the Patriots/Saints game, leaving two teams remaining undefeated. And would you believe that both of those teams are in the AFC West? Of course you wouldn’t, because the truth is usually stranger than fiction. And as sportswriters, that really turns things on our heads because we simply report what happens and then discuss it. This assures you the reader that we will never be as strange as you’d like us to be, and has sent our minds in all sorts of directions that we’d rather not examine. The one thing we know for sure that did happen was Colts owner Jim Irsay got very critical of Peyton Manning and his time in Indianapolis in an interview earlier this week. His comments were considered by many to be controversial, but he made some really good points. It set the stage for what’s sure to be yet another instant classic when Peyton heads back to Indy to take on his former team. So let’s take a look at that and the rest of the games coming your way in week six…
Thursday Night Football: Seattle Seahawks (5-1) -6.5 at Arizona Cardinals (3-3) (40.5)
Meehan: This is another one of those odd “trap games” for the Seahawks. It’s on the road, which means it will be away from the confines of where Seattle can just drown you out with noise to the point where you can’t hear anything at all. The Cardinals are probably better than we think or we choose to admit. They put up a very respectable showing against the Niners last week, and they are ranked fifth against the run. Which should be very interesting to see how that pans out against the Seahawks, who on the other hand seem to have a problem playing on the road. While this will be virtually another West Coast game for them, they’re not running people out of opposing buildings like they should be doing with that level of talent. Wilson looked better last week but when you look at him from a distance you can’t help but see flashbacks of the first half of the divisional playoff against the Falcons last year. He needs to have a breakout game here, but with the return of Percy Harvin still just too far out to risk it I feel like something just isn’t going to click here. Golden Tate would have to have a career afternoon to make that happen, and you know that NFL officials are always going to be watching his every move to try and “make things right”. I can’t feel over 85% confident that the Seahawks will win, that’s why something seems fishy here and it ain’t salmon. Upset special of the week, spread’s hardly the issue.
Meehan’s Prediction: Cardinals 21, Seahawks 20
Coach’s Prediction: Seahawks 28, Cardinals 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6) +7 at Atlanta Falcons (1-4) (43)
Coach: If you could go back in time to the preseason and I told you that the combined record of the Bucs and Falcons going into their conference matchup would be 1-9 would you have believed me? Granted I suppose you do have to take into account all the injuries the Falcons have had including Julio Jones being officially lost for the year but even if everyone was 100% healthy I still don’t know just how good (if at all) this Falcons team would be. I know Matt Ryan is a good quarterback but part of me can’t help but make a comparison to Tom Brady who also has had all of his major weapons injured for part or all of the season and has still managed to do enough to win. I know comparing the Falcons to the Patriots is a little unfair knowing their track record but at this point what else is there to do with the Falcons? So far this season a lot of people have lost a lot of money betting on Atlanta and a lot of that has to do with the “they can’t be that bad can they” mentality, apparently they CAN be that bad at least for now. If Atlanta is going to have any chance at turning this disaster of a season around it’s going to have to start with a win against a team that is worse off than they are.
Right on cue enters Tampa Bay. As bad as the Falcons have been this year at least they have won a game. As I was researching games this week I was actually surprised to see that Tampa was still winless on the season. I’m not saying their record has near the shock value as Atlanta but before the season started I thought they’d win something more than the award for being the most disorganized organization in the NFL. Its okay Bucs fans, Greg Schiano has reassured you this week that your team is going to be good. Unfortunately for you that just isn’t going to happen this week as the Freeman catastrophe is still fresh on everyone’s mind. The spread on this game is seven which should give you some sort of indication on just how good everyone thinks Schiano’s Buccaneers are going to be.
Coach’s Pick: Falcons 27, Buccaneers 16
Meehan’s Pick: Falcons 20, Buccaneers 11
Chicago Bears (4-2) EVEN at Washington Redskins (1-4) (50)
Coach: Speaking of teams that have been disappointments this year welcome the Washington Redskins who have gotten more people fired up about their name than their play on the field. On a side note I remember in the preseason reading a few articles with “experts” picking the Skins to play the Falcons in the playoffs. Although RGIII has shown steady improvements this season he still has yet to become the truly dynamic quarterback he was last season before he got injured. As frustrating as this season has been for fans and fantasy owners everywhere you know that last week’s Prime Time Blowout in rival Dallas isn’t sitting pretty with anyone on the Skins and although their playoff chances are as slim as Atlanta’s, this season will go on as long preseason for RGIII to get back to 100%. The Bears on the other hand continue to be an enigma just barely being able to hold off a late surge by the also oh so impressive New York Giants last week.
The thing that must worry most Chicago fans is even at 4-2, you have to second guess the quality of wins that the Bears have under their belt. Although I can’t fault the Bears for losing on the road to Detroit or even at home to the Saints, it seems like their victories against the Vikings, Steelers, and Giants just don’t have the same ring as they did even a year ago. You can give them credit for taking care of the Bengals but that was week one. The line is even at this time and although I think the Bears are overall more talented than the Skins I think RGIII will outgun Jay Cutler in what should be an NFC shootout.
Coach’s Pick: Redskins 31, Bears 27
Meehan’s Pick: Bears 24, Redskins 20
Dallas Cowboys (3-3) +2.5 at Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) (55)
Meehan: This game should end up being interesting, which is something that I didn’t think I would saya month ago. Whoever wins will be on top of the NFC East, and given the play in the Sunday night game the average viewer would say that would for sure be Dallas. But the Cowboys’ defense still isn’t that good, and they’ll be playing without the service of DeMarco Ware. To make matters worse for the yeehaw crew, Jerry Jones said Tuesday that Jay Ratliff very likely may miss not only this game but the rest of the year. Oh, and DeMarco Murray will be out so there goes what little running game they had. With all of those injuries, it’ll be easy for the opposing coordinators to pick apart the Cowboys and how they will exercise the few options they do have.
The Eagles have apparently chosen to make Nick Foles their starter, and we’re slowly finding out that less and less of that decision is based on Michael Vick’s injury. Certainly it was the catalyst and that’s why Foles got the opportunity to get into the game, but there are rumors floating around the Philadelphia media that in Tuesday’s morning practice Matt Barkley got more reps than Vick did. So if you’re keeping score, what that essentially means is that before the year’s over Michael Vick might end up being the first $100 million third string quarterback in the history of the NFL. That tells me that not only do they not trust that Vick has the athleticism he possessed when he signed that deal, but that they see something in Nick Foles that they REALLY like. And I really like it too – as a Giants fan very rarely do I find myself being impressed by an Eagles quarterback at any point in time but I like Foles.
It’s weird because although Dallas beat Washington by more than Philly beat Tampa and the Bucs are probably worse than the Skins, I still think that the Eagles should take this one. I like them at home but I’d tread lightly around the spread, because Romo has hung in there and I think he should get some credit for that. I can’t trust him enough to win the game, though I believe it’ll be close. This one could end up being a shootout.
Meehan’s Prediction: Eagles 34, Cowboys 31
Coach’s Prediction: Cowboys 27, Eagles 21
New England Patriots (5-1) -3.5 at New York Jets (3-3) (43.5)
Coach: A lot has been made this week about the underachieving teams but let’s focus on who in my opinion is one of the biggest overachievers in the NFL. It’s not the Jets, it’s actually the Patriots. This was supposed to be the year between free agents leaving, injuries, and your typical tight end murder cases that the Patriots were supposed to show a decline in play. Instead last week we saw exactly why Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL as he led an unbelievable comeback against the (then) unbeaten Saints. This is a rematch from week two when the Jets almost upset the Pats in Foxboro. I’ve been known to look past week one slip ups or big wins and that is the direction I’m going to head here. Although the Jets and Geno Smith have looked impressive at times last week’s loss to the Steelers in New York kind of showed the Jets that everyone was expecting. Although I think the Pats are good I still think they’re overachieving a little at the moment but that doesn’t change the fact that they are considerably better than the Jets. The spread on the game is -3.5 New England and I’m not expecting the Jets to give the Pats that much trouble.
Coach’s Pick: Patriots 26, Jets 17
Meehan’s Pick: Patriots 31, Jets 21
Buffalo Bills (2-4) +7.5 at Miami Dolphins (3-2) (43)
Meehan: This game figures to be the turning point in the Dolphins’ season. If they lose here coming off of a bye week against a division rival, they will drop to .500 and then we’ll start putting them in that category of underachievers that no team wants to be in. They should easily win this one at home, but the Bills can be tricky as they’ve recently knocked of the Super Bowl Champion Ravens just a few weeks back. The big question for Miami is: Will middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe be able to play in this game? He missed his third straight practice on Wednesday (shoulder) but he keeps telling the media he’ll be good to go. Only problem is, if you know anything about how that works – it’s not up to the athlete. The player always wants to go, but the trainers know exactly how much money is at stake if the guy goes out and reaggravates the injury.
Other than signing Matt Flynn, the Bills haven’t been in the news much. They’ve struggled a lot, but have still managed to stay in games late. So I’m picking the Dolphins to cover the spread here, but I’m telling you not to bet on this one. Coach has them to cover as well, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he also told you to exercise caution either.
Meehan’s Prediction: Dolphins 23, Bills 14
Coach’s Prediction: Dolphins 24, Bills 16
San Diego Chargers (3-3) -7.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6) (45)
Meehan: The Chargers did impress me on Monday night by beating the Colts. But then again, they lost to the Raiders the week before that in the midnight game so who’s to say which team will show up here? If the Colts game showed us anything, it’s that the Chargers defense can hold when they need to. The Jaguars got a bit of a confidence booster by not getting blown out by the Broncos, which is kind of a weird thing to say but it’s also pretty accurate. They’re still terrible, and although Justin Blackmon is probably the most underrated WR in the NFL today it still doesn’t change that they’re so far away from being a complete team it’s not even humorous.
While last week’s spread was ridiculous, I think here San Diego covers easily. They earned a lot of points with me by beating the Colts on Monday night, because they did it in such a commanding fashion. A little over a tocuhdown isn’t a lot, and Philip Rivers is using almost every opportunity that he steps on the field to say “Piss off” to critics like myself who have vocalized concerns about why they’ve totally fell out of the playoff landscape. Last week may have changed the way some people think about Jacksonville, but very early on in this one they could find themselves back on the corner of Blowout Street and Touchdownless Avenue.
Meehan’s Prediction: Chargers 23, Jaguars 6
Coach’s Prediction: Chargers 31, Jaguars 19
St. Louis Rams (3-3) +6 at Carolina Panthers (2-3) (42)
Coach: Cam Newton is coming off a game vs. Minnesota where he actually played like the number one draft pick he was. The thing about Carolina is even though they haven’t played a really tough schedule I really do believe they should be better that what they are. They have talent on both sides of the ball but for some reason just fall apart from week to week. Is that Cam Newton? Can’t put it all on him, I know they have had some injuries but at this point who hasn’t. With players like Luke Kuechly leading the way they have a top ten defense.
On offense Newton is complimented by players like Steve Smith, Greg Olson, and when healthy a decent duo of running backs. The Rams are another team that can surprise from time to time but their poor defense and run capabilities are easier to point the finger to as the problem than the problems the Panthers have. The spread on this game is -6 Carolina and I think that should be about right. With the Falcons having their awful year I would love to see the Panthers step it up contend with the Saints unfortunately after their slow start I just don’t see them getting past the .500 mark.
Coach’s Pick: Panthers 31, Rams 24
Meehan’s Pick: Rams 20, Panthers 18
Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) +1.5 at Detroit Lions (4-2) (47)
Coach: We all know that Indy and Denver is the hands down game of the week but this game is the game that everyone should pay attention to but that not many will. Both these teams will be battling for a win to stay above their respected divisions although considering how much tougher the NFC North is this game is much more important than the Lions who are coming off a win. Luckily for Detroit even though Calvin Johnson was a non-factor last week in Cleveland he should be back to being almost completely healthy and will be looking to make an impact on a stingy Bengals secondary. With Detroit’s defense still giving up too many yards (296 passing yards to Brandon Weeden anyone) the Bengals will be relying on Andy Dalton to have another big day. After pulling off a very close win last week in overtime in Buffalo you have to think that they’d rather be at home instead of heading into Detroit. I expect Cincinnati to try to strike quick and have the Lions play catch up. The spread on this game is 1.5 with Detroit as the favorite, however I think the Bengals are establishing themselves as a force in the AFC. And with questions on how healthy Megatron is, I think the Bengals will be able to win another very tough road game.
Coach’s Pick: Bengals 27, Lions 21
Meehan’s Pick: Bengals 28, Lions 24
San Francisco 49ers (4-2) -4 at Tennessee Titans (3-3) (39.5)
Meehan: What I love about the San Francisco 49ers is that they have the one quality that usually shows up in teams that are on their way to a Championship season – They have a different guy or set of guys that has a big game each week. One Sunday it’ll be Frank Gore, the next week it’ll be everybody on that defense, and the following week it’ll be Vernon Davis. It’s kind of the “next man up” mantra that the Patriots have been able to make work for quite some time now. But more importantly than that, they seem to have done two very key things: 1) They have been able to wipe that drubbing in Seattle from their memory and been able to refocus themselves on the task at hand; and 2) They’ve done of this without Aldon Smith. That second one is key because I’m sure that he has a lot of friends on that team that are worried about him, yet it hasn’t seemed to affect their play one bit. Perhaps they are using his struggle to find sobriety as a motivator? Whatever it is, it’s working.
The Titans aren’t nearly as good as they looked at the beginning of the year, and now we’re starting to see why. Inconsistency on defense and inability to score when it counts most, and when I say “when it counts most” I mean “at some point between the beginning of the fourth quarter and before the game goes final”. Not really sure why the spread is so close here – go for it.
Meehan’s Prediction: 49ers 27, Titans 18
Coach’s Prediction: Niners 23, Titans 17
Houston Texans (2-4) +7 at Kansas City Chiefs (6-0) (40)
Coach: Let’s rewind to week two of this season when both of these teams were sitting at 2-0 you probably could have guessed that one team would have lost four in a row and maybe believed that the other would be 6-0. Never would you have realistically thought the Chiefs would be the ones with the perfect record, beating teams like the Cowboys and Giants. Not only are the Texans in bad shape, but we’ve already gotten to the point of their fans cheering an injury to quarterback Matt Schaub. You have to imagine that will kill any confidence that a player has, and unfortunately for Schaub any confidence left over from this nightmare of a season was more than likely squashed when Head Coach Gary Kubiak tried to avoid saying he would start if he was healthy like the plague.
Where does that leave the Texans? They will prepare quarterbacks T.J. Yates and Case Keenum to go against one of two unbeaten teams in one of the hardest stadiums to play at in the NFL. This should go well. The spread on the game is -7 in favor of Kansas City, and if you were going to bet big on a game this week this would be the one. If you need another stat to put you over the top consider this, the Texans are the only team in the NFL to not win against the spread this year.
Coach’s Pick: Chiefs 31, Texans 10
Meehan’s Pick: Chiefs 36, Texans 10
Baltimore Ravens (3-3) +1 at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4) (40.5)
Meehan: I had ESPN on in the background and it was hilarious listening to Jerome Bettis try and sell this game as if it’s be close. Bear in mind the Steelers are still one of the most blank teams in the league, empty at almost every position. And like I said in the wrapup, their only touchdown last week was due to blown coverage, so it’s not like they are The Ravens tend to play their division well – it’s one of the few things that was able to sneak them into the playoffs The Steelers are an absolute joke in the red zone and if you told me they had a higher percentage of getting penalized out of that region than they did advancing the ball over the goal line, I’d probably believe you.
There’s always a lot of discussion that this is a heated rivalry, but after getting beaten by the Packers at home last week and not showing up at all in the first half of that game you’d better believe John Harbaugh has been up their ass and around the corner in practice all week. This is another game where I think Vegas isn’t quite sure what’s going to happen – this is a line made by people who are good at making odds but don’t really watch much football. It’s absolutely insane to think that the team that just won the Super Bowl would be underdogs against a team that was winless for an enitre month and acted like the opposition’s goal line was made of land mines. Playing at home means something, but it doesn’t mean that much. Good Lord…
Meehan’s Prediction: Ravens 28, Steelers 10
Coach’s Prediction: Ravens 20, Steelers 17
Cleveland Browns (3-3) +10 at Green Bay Packers (3-2) (46)
Coach: Anyone want to take a wild guess on what the Browns did differently in their three wins this season? If you guessed that they didn’t start Brandon Weedon, than you would be correct. This week Cleveland has to travel to Lambeau Field to take on the heavily favored Packers in what more than likely will be a one sided contest. As a Browns fan, it’ll be interesting to see if Horton’s defense is able to make any big plays and limit the scoring before they become exhausted in the second half. The key for Green Bay is simply not to look past the Browns but considering how they hardly ever seem to do that and already have a loss against the Bengals you have to think they will be out for blood against the AFC North from this point forward. As far as the Browns offense goes, you know the quarterback is starting his last season so let’s see if they can limit the turnovers and put a couple points on the board. The spread on the game is -10 Packers, and they should be able to cover.
Coach’s Prediction: Packers 27, Browns 13
Meehan’s Prediction: Packers 23, Browns 17
Sunday Night Football: Denver Broncos (6-0) -6.5 at Indianapolis Colts (4-2) (56)
Coach: The moment that Peyton Manning signed with the Broncos every fan of the NFL has waited for this game. Keep in mind this game had to take place in Indianapolis even though it would still be interesting if played in Denver it wouldn’t come close to Peyton returning home. I was listening to a sports radio show when they were trying to figure out when the last time I return home like this has happened? Usually when a superstar leaves a franchise in the NFL it’s because they’re over the hill or can’t play anymore. This type of sports hype may happen in other sports from time to time (LeBron’s return to Cleveland, Gretzky’s return to Edmonton, Griffey’s return to Seattle) but it just isn’t as common in the NFL. The closest we can get has to be Brett Favre returning to Lambeau.
Forget what happened to either of these teams last week. As much as neither quarterback will admit it (Luck coming off a loss on Monday Night, The Broncos sloppy start against the Jags) you have to suspect that in a way every player who is part of this game could have been looking ahead to this. Personally I can’t remember a regular season game that has had as much intrigue and hype and that is why this game will bring in the biggest bets the regular season has seen in quite some time. The spread on the game is Broncos by 7, which makes it a tricky one to pick. In the end of the day this matchup with the ‘Idol’ against the ‘Heir Apparent’ should come down to who has the ball last and makes the fewest mistakes, it will really come down to who shines more on Sunday Night. A game like this doesn’t really have a stat you can go on to sway you one way or another, so let me leave you with this: If you had to have one quarterback to win a regular season football game who would it be? There’s your answer…
Coach’s Pick: Broncos 37, Colts 28
Meehan’s Pick: Broncos 30, Colts 21
Monday Night Football: New York Giants (0-6) -3 at Minnesota Vikings (1-4) (46.5)
Meehan: In Monday night’s blockbuster matchup, the artist formerly known as the New York Giants will head into the big parachute to take on the struggling Minnesota Vikings. It seems like the homer pick to go with the Giants in this one, almost as if I’m willing them to their first win. But at least they have a quarterback who is THE starter on his respective team, and is respected as so. The Vikings are going through a rollercoaster of negative emotions as their star player tries to cope with with something no one should have to face. In the end, it’s just too many distractions for Minnesota and I think they’ll drop this one. Josh Freeman will be starting for the Vikes but Minnesota is 29th against the pass, so if Eli can hit his stride if won’t matter how many points they can put on the board – The Giants will put them away early.
Meehan’s prediction: Giants 26, Vikings 20
Coach’s prediction: Giants 17, Vikings 13
Oakland Raiders (2-4)
Meehan: What’s not to love about Oakland? If you answered “Everything”, you’d be correct on the surface but not when you look a little deeper into the whole scenario. Although you know you’re in trouble when the most skilled player on your team is your kicker, in any other year in the AFC West that wouldn’t put you in a spot you can’t get out of. They’re ninth in rushing, and ninth in defending the rush…so you’d think that would translate to a better record than 2-4. But think about that for a second…If they are a top ten team in both of those categories and in the bottom tenth of the league when it comes to passing – That means when it comes to REALLY managing the pace of an NFL game in 2013 they can’t hack it. That’s why the Raiders aren’t succeeding. And the sad thing about it is that in other years, they’d be able to win this division. Not now. You know what the Oakland Raiders should be for Halloween? Balanced. Because that way, nobody would have any idea who the hell they were. #trickortreatbitches
New Orleans Saints (5-1)
Coach: The Saints are going into the bye only a few seconds away from having a perfect record. Although I thought the Saints would be improved this season with the return of Sean Payton they have managed to show up better as advertised. If there’s any reason to worry about them it would be Jimmy Graham not being able to finish out the game last Sunday with a foot injury. Early reports are that he’ll be good to go after they bye but you have to think it’s a situation that they will be monitoring very closely. Coming off the bye the Saints have a very favorable schedule and there’s no reason to think that Who Dat Nation won’t finish on top of the NFC South and be a major thorn in the side of whoever matches up with them in the playoffs.
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Meehan and Coach Ryan