We are past the midseason point in the 2013 NFL season. Every team in the league has played at least eight games while some have played nine. I think it's safe to say that if you're two games under .500 at this point you're probably not going to make the playoffs. We've seen teams go on runs in the second half to get in (like Washington last year), but the odds are not in their favor. The second half of the year also means we should know these teams a bit better, which makes predicting games easier. I don't know how true that is. In theory it sounds good. Whether that actually happens only time will tell.
Before we get to this week's games, here are some thoughts on the Thursday night game.
Minnesota 34 - Washington 27: Two of the worst defenses in the league means a lot of points and that's what we got. I give credit to the Vikings for fighting back. They were down 24-14 at the half, held Washington to just a field goal in the second half and they put together some nice drives of their own to get the win. Both offenses had nice games with RG3 looking outstanding in the first half (not so great in the 2nd half) and the Vikings doing enough in the passing game to compliment Adrian Peterson, who had two rush TDs. Washington moves to 3-6 as people hopefully stop thinking they will be a playoff team and the Vikings get their second win to move to 2-7.
Last week straight up: 8-5. Season: 83-50 (.624)
Byes: Kansas City, N.Y. Jets, Cleveland, New England
All game times are in the Eastern time zone.
Cincinnati (6-3) at Baltimore (3-5) 1:00 pm
I'm one of those guys that predicted the Ravens to miss the playoffs at the start of the year and people thought I was nuts. Of course some of my other predictions were awful (hey Falcons), but at least I got this one right. While I still don't see them as a playoff team, I can see them finding a way to win this game. The Bengals are 4-0 at home, but only 2-3 on the road. That tells me that they're vulnerable here. Divisional opponents know each other well. The Ravens win a close one late on a last second field goal. Ravens 20-19
Detroit (5-3) at Chicago (5-3) 1:00 pm
This one should be fun to watch since both teams are relatively healthy with Bears QB Jay Cutler back in action. Both offenses are potent. Both defense can be...well...impotent at times. The Bears defense used to be a force, but they've given up at least 20 points in every game so far. With the Lions offense firing on all cylinders I expect that Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson Lions combo to have a big game. If the Bears make it a point to shut down Calvin (good luck) then I think the Lions have enough other weapons to make them pay. I've flip flopped on this all week, but I'm going with the Bears because I think their offensive balance will be tough for the Lions to handle. I know that statement can go both ways with these teams, but I really like how Matt Forte is running the ball. It's opening up the passing game a lot. Bears 31-26
Philadelphia (4-5) at Green Bay (5-3) 1:00 pm
I can't really believe I'm picking the Eagles, but it's happening. They're better on the road (4-1) than at home (0-4), which is one of the weirdest stats you'll see all year. The Eagles could win this game and then move into a tie for first with the Cowboys even with no home wins. Isn't that weird to you? It is to me. Why am I picking the Eagles? Because I think Aaron Rodgers is one of the best and most valuable players in the NFL. The Packers offense will struggle with Seneca Wallace, who is 6-15 as a star in his career. He's a backup for a reason. I know Rodgers may be back in a month, but I don't know how many games they can win without him. He's so important. I was sad to see him get hurt. The Eagles aren't a great team, but they can do enough to win because they're not at home. Backwards logic applies for them. Eagles 27-23
St. Louis (3-6) at Indianapolis (6-2) 1:00 pm
Two years ago they were the two worst teams. Indy is a playoff team for the second straight year. The Rams are on the outside looking in for what will be the 9th straight year. It's frustrating. If my Rams can win two games the rest of the year with Kellen Clemens at QB I'll be surprised. They should have won the last two weeks, but they didn't because of awful picks two weeks ago and a costly lost fumble last week by Clemens. Once again he's a backup for a reason. At least I can be excited about Zac Stacy's future at RB. I expect a comfortable win for the Colts, who continue to impress me as a legitimate threat. Colts 34-14
Seattle (8-1) at Atlanta (2-6) 1:00 pm
Remember their classic game in the NFC Semis last year? It was arguably the best game of the year. Sadly, that Falcons team is no more due to so many injuries. With Roddy White back in the mix I expect them to put up a fight. That doesn't mean I'm picking them. I think they'll keep it close before losing late. That's what the Seahawks tend to do even against bad teams. What they should do is establish Marshawn Lynch in the run game early, build up a lead and earn that easy victory. Instead, they don't run Lynch early enough in games and teams stay close with them. Learn from your mistakes. Run the damn ball. Seahawks 27-23
Oakland (3-5) at N.Y. Giants (2-6) 1:00 pm
The Giants are a team that appeared to be in a drunken stupor (credit Toronto mayor Rob Ford) for the first six wins of the year and they might be putting it together now. With three home games in a row (GB & Dal after this) they actually can make a little noise by finishing with 6 or 7 wins. The Raiders are a young team that I don't mind picking at home, but with a 0-3 road record they make me leery when they head east. Giants 20-14
Jacksonville (0-8) at Tennessee (4-4) 1:00 pm
I doubt I will pick the Jaguars to win a game the rest of the year. They're too bad in too many ways. Titans should dominate the game from the beginning with ball control offense and a defense that makes it tough for the Jags offense to find any kind of success. Titans 34-10
Buffalo (3-6) at Pittsburgh (2-6) 1:00 pm
Two bad teams that are hard to get a read on. I'm going Bills just because I like their run game more with CJ Spiller looking healthy again. It's also a good sign that rookie QB EJ Manuel is back after missing a month. Steelers have no momentum right now. It's the worst year for that franchise in a very long time. Bills 23-17
Carolina (5-3) at San Francisco (6-2) 4:05 pm
Game of the week? It might be. Look out NFL world. The Panthers are a legitimate team that could be playoff bound. If they win this game they will really send a message to let everybody know just how good they are. The thing is, the Niners are also playing really well. They've won five straight games with four of those wins falling under the blowout category. The defense woke up, the offense is in a groove and I think they will play really well in a big game on their home field coming after the bye. Trust me, I like Cam Newton a lot. I think he's playing the best football of his career. I just don't think the Panthers offense is explosive enough to win this game. I'll go with the Niners to win a tough, physical game thanks to Colin Kaepernick doing just a bit more to get the win for his team. The spread right now is 6.5 points, so I'll take the Panthers to cover that. It should be a fun game to watch. 49ers 24-20
Houston (2-6) at Arizona (4-4) 4:25 pm
The Cardinals are another one of those pretty good at home (3-1) and not so good on the road (1-3) kind of teams. They can beat below average teams in their stadium because they are above average defensively and have enough offense to get the job done. The Texans are reeling. Coach Kubiak is out, they have a rookie QB in Case Keenum that we don't know enough about, Arian Foster isn't himself and the once formidable defense is very average. They're too inconsistent for me to pick them. I'll take the Cards at home. Cardinals 27-23
Denver (7-1) at San Diego (4-4) 4:25 pm
It's the biggest divisional game of the week with the Broncos coming off their bye week and the undefeated Chiefs are on the schedule next week. I don't think the Broncos are going to look past the Chargers because they know how potent they are. I've been very impressed by Phil Rivers and that Chargers offense this year. On paper they didn't look like a talented group, but they are the 4th ranked passing offense in the league. Since the Broncos are ranked 30th against the pass that tells me the Chargers will likely be able to put plenty of points up on the board. Can the Chargers stop the Broncos? I don't think so. Not many teams can. This will be a shootout. In the end, I like Peyton Manning and company to win a close game just because they have a few too many playmakers that will be difficult for the Chargers to handle. Broncos 38-34
Dallas (5-4) at New Orleans (6-2) 8:30 pm
This has the makings of one of those 40+ point games for the Saints where Drew Brees throws at least 4 TDs and the Superdome is really loud for three hours. With the Saints coming off a tough road loss against the Jets they get to face a Cowboys team that doesn't defend very well. I should also point out that Dallas is 2-4 outside of the awful NFC East, which tells me that they really benefit from playing such awful teams in their division. They're an average team at best. The Saints are a legit Super Bowl contender that won't lose this game at home. Saints 45-24
Miami (4-4) at Tampa Bay (0-8) 8:40 pm (MON)
The Bucs get a win! They should have beat the Seahawks last week after jumping out to a big lead, but they weren't able to hold on. Their offense has shown some signs of life at least with rookie QB Mike Glennon looking competent out there. I think a home game on Monday night should motivate them enough to actually get a win. Then again I've been off on Dolphins games all year, so I'm not that confident about this one. Buccaneers 20-16
That's all for me this week. Enjoy the games and good luck to you.