by Ryan Meehan
Well, here we are. We are now right smack in the middle of the season, the tip of the tent. I’d like to take this space to give respect for a player that decided to retire this week – Champ Bailey. Bailey did not play a single down this season, and was cut by the Saints during the preseason thinning process. The only reason I would have been happy if the Broncos would have won the Super Bowl last year was the fact that it would have given Champ a ring, and he spent 15 very long and tiresome seasons without so much as a single visit to the Super Bowl. At least he got to go to one, a lot of players never get that shot – I’m sure Barry Sanders isn’t holed up in his garage tonight with a box of Kleenex and a quart of ice cream. (Well, maybe the ice cream part…Have you seen him lately?) Bailey did however make the Pro Bowl in 12 of those 15 seasons. Anyway, the season rolls on with some serious marquee match-ups so let’s take a gander at what’s getting my goose in week nine of the NFL season.
Thursday Night Football: New Orleans Saints (3-4) -2.5 at Carolina Panthers (3-4) (48)
In this battle of the underachievers, New Orleans is in the better shape of the two teams. Their Sunday Night win over the Packers kept them out of a hole they likely weren’t going to be able to dig themselves out of, and if they hadn’t won that one a loss here to the Panthers could have potentially changed the future of the franchise. Or at least it would have if the NFC South wasn’t so completely wide open. We’re literally at a point in that division where the 2-6 Falcons are a few solid weeks from being right at the top of the pack, and even the Buccaneers still have a fighting chance. At this moment the top spot currently belongs to Carolina, who probably doesn’t deserve it although they played the Seahawks very well last week in Charlotte. I still need to see more out of their defense, and I’m hoping that this is the game where that happens. For some reason I can’t trust the Saints – they’re too week to weak for me (that wasn’t a typo) so I have to pick Carolina here even though I’ll probably regret it Friday morning. Speaking of the Panthers, is it possible for a team to have two ties on their record in the same year? I expect this line to move more throughout the week.
Panthers 27, Saints 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6) +7 at Cleveland Browns (4-3) (44)
Sunday afternoon starts off with a bang as the one and six Buccaneers head to Cleveland as the final third of Browns’ trifecta of games that they should have easily win. But as we all know a couple of weeks back Cleveland’s Cinderella story stepped on a thorn bush in Jacksonville, and in that time the AFC North has become a very difficult division to compete in. It’s a sector of the weaker conference where the Browns (who are 4-3) now find themselves in last place with a rough part of their schedule coming up. The good news? They get Tampa this week, which should not be a very difficult hurdle to clear. On the other side of the coin is the NFC South, which is slowly turning into the world’s longest tee ball game. Tampa is bringing up the rear down there, and with New Orleans finally coming to life it looks like Tampa and Atlanta are going to be competing for who will be so bad they’ll be tricked into trading their top five draft pick for next year to the Patriots. I like Cleveland to cover here, but I can’t help thinking about how if they win this one and if they had won the Jags game they’d be 6-2 and full of the confidence it takes for a young team to succeed and actually compete in this division. Now it just becomes a gamble to see what the over/under is on how many wins they’ll finish with. I’m saying eight even if they win this one.
Browns 30, Buccaneers 18
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) +12 at Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-1) (43.5)
A home game against the Jaguars might be exactly what the doctor ordered when it comes to getting the cure for what ails the Bengals. It may be at just the right time too…Even as they are coming off of a huge season sweeping victory of the Ravens which will put them in great shape at the end of the season, it’s going to take a couple solid Ws to erase the memory of getting blanked at Indy a couple weeks back. (The tie helps them a lot as well) If the Jaguars want to stop the bleeding to the point where they aren’t going to have to replace the carpet, they’re going to want to focus on finding a way to cover Mohamed Sanu who is slowly becoming the most underrated wide receiver in the league. Not that the Jaguars have been able to stop anybody except the Browns lately. If you take the Cleveland game out of the equation, they’ve given up 30.2 points per game in each of their seven losses. Even though that’s the case, I still wouldn’t touch the over in this game with a javelin as the same rule for the Jets also applies here.
Bengals 30, Jaguars 10
Arizona Cardinals (6-1) +4 at Dallas Cowboys (6-2) (48)
Let’s be honest here…On any other Sunday where Peyton Manning and Tom Brady weren’t facing off, this would be the game of the week. Or it might not be, seeing as how it seems like no matter what the Cardinals do it’s not going to be enough to warrant significant media attention. I would think that if they can somehow win this game, the media will be unable to ignore what Bruce Arians has been able to do. As much as I want that to happen I don’t think that their good fortune will continue this week, and the rest of the Cardinals’ schedule leads me to believe they could easily lose half of their remaining games. Dallas had been on a complete tear as of late up until the Washington loss, and it’s funny how when everything down there is going well Jerryworld and the gang act like it’s all been part of their grand plan to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since January of 1996. I may hate their guts, but I got their back as far as things have been going this year. They are running the ball very well, Romo looks like he belongs in the Pro Bowl for a reason other than the fact that the guy who placed ahead of him in the voting didn’t want to show up, (we’ll see how he performs with the back tweak that happened on MNF) and most important of all their defense finally has their ducks in a row. I have to be honest with you, I figured that when DeMarcus Ware left town that unit was going to struggle. Instead, they’ve actually gotten better at rushing the passer and all the while Ware is still succeeding in Denver. That’s a serious head scratcher. I’m taking the Cowboys to cover here, and I can’t tell you how much I hope I’m wrong.
Cowboys 28, Cardinals 23
Philadelphia Eagles (5-2) -1 at Houston Texans (4-4) (48)
The Philadelphia Eagles put on the best performance out of all of last week’s losing teams. They had to go to Arizona with that makeshift defense and try to sneak out of there with a win against a team whose only loss has came at the hands of Peyton Manning. They gave it their all, and came within a few feet of winning this game as time expired. Jeremy Maclin showed every young kid in America how to be a man in that game, getting knocked around and abused all day only to get up and still be a huge factor with 172 receiving yards. The Houston Texans on the other hand are one of the least inspiring teams in the league, with a roster that doesn’t come close to matching that description. They definitely shouldn’t be 4-4, but with JJ Watt the only player who remains consistent week in and week out the Texans can’t seem to put a winning streak together long enough to seriously threaten the Colts. They might only be a game out of first place, but we all know that Indy’s got that division in a chokehold and with the bottom half of that foursome completely impotent you have to wonder – What’s the hold up with Houston? Ryan Fitzpatrick played better last week, but he’s about to find out that if he wants to be able to keep up with Nick Foles he’ll have to actually commit zero turnovers against a team that’s actually going to make the playoffs. I like Philadelphia to cover here, they are playing great football but due to the fact that the same thing could be said about Dallas you won’t hear much about it. Avoid the over like the plague.
Eagles 24, Texans 14
New York Jets (1-7) +10.5 at Kansas City Chiefs (4-3) (42)
New York Jets Head coach and donut enthusiast Rex Ryan has announced that Michael Vick will start this week on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s hard to understand that this is a scenario where Vick is the better option, but Geno Smith is just not on the same page as anyone else in that locker room. That of course leaves Rex to start a guy who has made it well known that he has no problem being a back-up quarterback for the remainder of his career. This could pose a potential issue where every remaining game of theirs has become a must-win situation. The Chiefs shouldn’t have a problem dismissing a team in that position, as they’ve won four out of their last five. They still don’t put up huge numbers, but they have great special teams units and they are playing very good defense. At the beginning of the year it appeared as if the Brandon Flowers loss was going to be catastrophic, but since the Titans game they haven’t given up more than 24 points in one game. This makes the Jets ripe for the picking (no pun intended) because New York can’t score points to save their life. Chiefs cover with very little (if any) effort at all. I’d say take the over but you never know when the Jets are going to show up with nothing.
Chiefs 32, Jets 13
San Diego Chargers (5-3) +1 at Miami Dolphins (4-3) (44)
Man, this is going to be another good one. San Diego is coming off of two straight losses, and they are easily the best team in the league with that losing “streak”. The first one was to the Chiefs, a three point decision where I felt they were the better team. Last Thursday they faced the Denver Broncos, and although the officiating was terrible Manning clearly worked their secondary over. They’re primed to begin another winning streak, and the polar opposite of the on-again, off-again Dolphins. It’s hard to fathom that the Dolphins are ranked 28th in the league in passing when you consider how well Ryan Tannehill has been managing games lately. Would you believe that he has eleven hundred and fifty passing yards less than Andrew Luck at the halfway point of the season. It’s true, but I have to believe that the Chargers can snuff out enough of their running game to barely pull this one out. Because of that I’m taking the Chargers and once again I like the over here.
Chargers 26, Dolphins 22
Washington Redskins (3-5) +2.5 at Minnesota Vikings (3-5) (44.5)
I knew we had a stinker in this week somewhere. That pungent stench can be found in Minneapolis, where the Vikings will be hosting the surprisingly resurgent Redskins. Sadly this game might be the last time we’ll see Colt McCoy start for that team, and I’ve already said last week that I believe as long as Colt McCoy keeps winning you keep playing him. In their remaining schedule, they still have to play the Cowboys, Eagles, 49ers, and Colts. Now how in the world can you convince me that Robert Griffin’s gimpy sticks are going to give the Redskins the best chance to win any one of those four games? I think the theory that Jay Gruden is subscribing to here (since he obviously isn’t fond of McCoy to begin with and is only starting him because Cousins played so poorly in the New York game) is that if he puts Colt out there then he’ll get laid out by a DE from one of those teams and then the decision of who to start doesn’t exist anymore. But that doesn’t make any sense either, because then when the same thing happens to RGIII a period later you’re stuck with Cousins again. The saddest part about all of this is if the Redskins played in the NFC South they’d be a playoff team right now. That’s why I feel the need to point out that Vegas has their head up their ass on this one. I don’t know what it is about the Minnesota Vikings at home that they find so attractive, but the only home game they’ve won this year was against the Falcons and we’ve had that conversation on this website already. And how do they expect people to take the over here when last week the Skins and the Cowboys only combined for 37 points over five periods? 44.5? That’s awfully hefty. Don’t get near this game. It’s not like you’ll watch it anyway.
Redskins 23, Vikings 14
St. Louis Rams (2-5) +11 at San Francisco 49ers (4-3) (43.5)
These two teams met on Monday Night back in week five, with the Niners getting things in gear in the second quarter after a rocky start. This game will be a 3:05 start in Santa Clara, and the Niners are heavy favorites for good reason. There are a couple key injuries for the Rams that are adding to the distance between the skill set of these two teams. Right tackle Jake Long and wide receiver Brian Quick are now out for the year, leaving St. Louis with the bone dust of what was already a skeleton crew of an offense. Wasn’t Kurt Warner giving the NFL Network all this crazy talk a couple of weeks back about how he saw “Brett-Favre-like qualities” in Austin Davis. I wonder how that’s going to pan out in the second half of the year…Speaking of looking ahead, the only way the Niners can be taken out here is if they let whatever is going on in the rest of the division cloud their thought processes. If I was that scoreboard operator, I wouldn’t be showing any scores from the Arizona or Seattle games. The Niners haven’t exactly gotten the head start they’ve needed this season to be looking at that home game against the Seahawks Thanksgiving night, and even though you might hear this “one game at a time” crap at the podium, I can assure you that’s all hooey. I’m taking SF to cover albeit barely, and I like the over on this one as well.
49ers 29, Rams 17
Denver Broncos (6-1) -3 at New England Patriots (6-2) (54.5)
This is where the bright lights will be shining on Sunday afternoon. All eyes are on Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, because you never know what could happen and every meeting between these two could be their last. Last year Denver lost the regular season match-up between these two teams, but they won the playoff game and that’s what really counts. They looked very good last Thursday night against San Diego, and they can expect an extremely loud venue on Sunday afternoon when the Patriots play host. New England is coming off of a complete slaughter of the Chicago Bears, so you can take that for whatever it’s worth. I take as short range target practice, and I think it bodes well for them as a prelude to this face-off. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut. I’m taking New England. And as crazy as it sounds, I like the 54.5 point spread here…Let me explain. The NFL wants this game to be as high scoring as possible, and the last thing they want is for it to end up 13-12 or 10-9. Therefore, you’re going to see a lot of calls in this game go in the offense’s favor. And since the Pats are the home team, they are going to get a bulk of these calls. Don’t touch the spread, it doesn’t mean anything when these two teams meet.
Patriots 34, Broncos 30
Oakland Raiders (0-7) +16.5 at Seattle Seahawks (4-3) (43)
As simple as this game looks for Seattle on paper, it’s kind of a watershed moment for them as there are a lot of questions swirling around that franchise and whether or not Russell Wilson can provide enough offense for the Seahawks to win those close games. They won one last week against the Panthers, but they’re going to be on the losing end of just as many of the close games they win. I think they do in fact get it done here, but as we all know Oakland at home isn’t really a true test of their offensive will. Let’s get real: This team is not the 2013 Seattle Seahawks. That team was violent, and their play in Super Bowl XLVIII was proof that they had enough of the media shortchanging them in lieu of a Hall of Fame quarterback. At the moment, Russell Wilson is not on pace to be a Hall of Fame quarterback at all. He may have the press conferences down pat, but the whole 300 yards a game thing is another story. That being said, they crush the Raiders here and cover the spread with no real discomfort. I have to think at this point Oakland has looked at the remainder of what is an inexplicably impossible schedule and decided that now is a good time to start resting up for January’s vacation plans. Lock of the Year. After all, it’s the NFL…What could possibly go wrong?
Seahawks 37, Raiders 16
Sunday Night Football: Baltimore Ravens (5-3) EVEN at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) (47.5)
Back on a brisk Thursday night in week two, the Baltimore Ravens really kicked their season into high gear by smoking the Steelers in week two. In that game Roethlisberger looked almost unrecognizable when you consider what he has over the past month, save the Cleveland game. As I stated last week, I think that what makes Big Ben such a great quarterback when he’s hitting (Yeah, I finally admitted he’s great…let’s not make an issue out of it) is that he can make guys like Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell look like they have been in the league for over a decade. Except for the fact that they have a fresh set of legs, and Bell is now second on the team in receiving yards. Not bad for a guy who can probably roll a blunt with his eyelids…The Ravens on the other hand seem to specialize in shaking a lot of mediocre teams if you look at their resume. Carolina, Cleveland, Tampa, and the Falcons are hardly challenges even for an NFL team, and if Baltimore ends up missing the playoffs it will be because against the teams when it really counts (see season series versus Cincinnati) they can’t finish. Even after all that, I look for them to come out angry against the Steelers. They’ll blitz often and early, and they’ll succeed.
Steelers 27, Ravens 23
Monday Night Football: Indianapolis Colts (5-3) -3 at New York Giants (3-4) (51)
Fantastic. Just when my Giants get a week off after a two week period of being beaten to a pulp by their two main NFC East foes, they have to play Indianapolis on Monday Night Football. I think the word “exposed” is kind of a dangerous term to use, because it implies that a team has a siginificant number of weaknesses that can’t really be fixed when it comes down to it. The Colts lost big last week giving up 51 points to Pittsburgh, but they still scored 34 points so it’s not like it’s the end of the world. And it’s not like the Giants are going to put forth a massive air attack similar to the one the Steelers did last week, especially with Victor Cruz out for the year and possibly the rest of his life. I’m guessing anything that could be classified as a glaringly obvious mistake will be corrected here, but I still expect this to be a sloppy game. You could see up to three defensive touchdowns in this one, but don’t expect the G-Men to have more than one of them. Colts cover with no real issue – I just don’t see how they are only a three point favorite, even on the road against a team who just had the week off. Three points is a joke – these teams are light years apart.
Colts 35, Giants 21
Meehan’s Bonus Guarantee of the Week: My hand to the Lord, Neither Jay Cutler or Matt Ryan will not throw an interception this weekend.
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