Peyton Manning is playing against Indianapolis for the first time in his Hall of Fame career. You may have heard about it. It's the biggest game of the week on Sunday night and I'm very much looking forward to it. I've been a huge Manning fan his whole career. The Colts are a very good team, so the big game feel will be there in Indy on Sunday night. I love it. Thoughts on that game to come, but we have other games to talk about too.
Before we get to this week's games, here are some thoughts on the Thursday night game.
Seattle 34 - Arizona 22: I expected a convincing win by the Seahawks and that's what we got. Russell Wilson had a great game, though, with three pass TDs and was accurate all night. Marshawn Lynch did an awesome job of running the ball too. Cardinals QB Carson Palmer was erratic as he's been all year with two picks (could have thrown a few more) and he was sacked seven times. Palmer has 8 TDs with 13 INTs this year, so at some point they might have to remove him as their starter. The Seahawks are the best team in the NFC. Obviously that can be argued, but I think they're proving to be the best right now. With WR Percy Harvin back in two or three weeks that offense will be even more dynamic. They're sitting at 6-1 now. I think they end up at 13-3 or 14-2 with the top seed in the NFC. Good luck winning a playoff game in their stadium.
Last week straight up: 11-4. Season: 57-35 (.620)
Two straight weeks with just four losses for me. I guess I'm on a bit of a roll, but this week doesn't look easy at all. If I can get up to picking 65% of the games correctly I'll be happy.
Byes: Oakland, New Orleans
All game times are in the Eastern time zone.
Tampa Bay (0-5) at Atlanta (1-4) 1:00 pm
I'm still shocked that the Falcons are this bad, but the injuries they've suffered to key players have been impossible to overcome. Five weeks ago they were Super Bowl contenders. Now they're likely getting a top ten draft pick at this pace. I still have some faith in Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez, though, so I think they'll take care of business at home coming off their bye. Falcons 24-17
Chicago (4-2) at Washington (1-4) 1:00 pm
There was a report out earlier this week that Robert Griffin III is feeling better and plans to run more. He had a season high 77 yards rushing last week, so there's definitely some truth to that. The Bears defense isn't as dominating as it was last year, but their offense is better. This one could be high scoring. Washington is favored by 1 or 1.5 points depending on where you look. I'm going with the Bears in a close game just because I think their defense can make more plays when they need it while that Washington defense has shown they can't really stop anybody at this point. Bears 31-27
Dallas (3-3) at Philadelphia (3-3) 1:00 pm
They're the top two teams in the below average NFC East. Both teams can score a lot. Neither team plays great defense and with Dallas losing Demarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff I really don't have a lot of faith in them. I've been impressed by Eagles QB Nick Foles. Five TD passes in his two games started and no picks. With RB LeSean McCoy having a huge year that offense is dynamic. I think Dallas will miss Demarco Murray in the run game, so if the Eagles can force some turnovers they should get the win. I don't think I've picked the Eagles much this year, but I'm starting to believe in them a bit. Eagles 27-23
New England (5-1) at N.Y. Jets (3-3) 1:00 pm
It should be a low scoring, defensive type of game. The Pats received good news this week because star TE Rob Gronkowski has been cleared by doctors and should make his season debut this week. I'm not sure how effective he'll be or how much he'll play, but it definitely gives them a boost in the red zone area. In the end, give me Tom Brady making a big play late instead of rookie QB Geno Smith, who has been impressive, but I'm not sure I trust him that much yet. Patriots 20-17
Buffalo (2-4) at Miami (3-2) 1:00 pm
The Dolphins are coming off the bye as they face a Bills team that is starting Thad Lewis at QB, who actually surprised me last week by playing solidly with 216 passing yards and two TDs. This week's matchup is tougher because he's on the road against a pretty good defense. I like the Bills to cover the spread at home most of the time because they always seem to play close games there. On the road? It's not as easy. I think Miami's the better team here. Dolphins 24-13
St. Louis (3-3) at Carolina (2-3) 1:00 pm
My Rams are coming off two impressive wins after beating the Jags and then last week's destruction of the Texans in Houston. What Panther team will show up? Will it be the guys that destroyed the Vikings 35-10 last week or got beat handily by the Cardinals 22-6 the week before? It's hard to say. These are both teams that are about .500 at best. Of course I want the Rams to win, but I think the Panthers will give them problems. Their physical play on the offensive line will likely lead to a successful run game all day (Rams are 30th against the run), which should lead them to victory. I think Cam Newton has a big game too. Panthers 23-17
Cincinnati (4-2) at Detroit (4-2) 1:00 pm
It's a tough game to pick because they are two young teams on the rise that are evenly matched. I'm going with the Lions because I think they have the offensive firepower to put more points on the board. I don't really trust Bengals QB Andy Dalton that much. Has he really improved since his rookie year? Not sure. I do love RB Giovanni Bernard for them and I think his emergence will help their passing game. There are encouraging signs for the Lions because reports are that Calvin Johnson is ready to do more this week after dealing with a knee injury the past couple of weeks. Matt Stafford's playing well. Reggie Bush is creating matchup problems. I wasn't convinced about the Lions early in the year, but I am now. Lions 31-23
San Diego (3-3) at Jacksonville (0-6) 1:00 pm
The Jags are terrible in many areas, so I doubt I'll pick them to win any games this year. They will probably get one or two, but I'll take my chances by picking against them. At least WR Justin Blackmon is putting up big numbers since returning from suspension. I only care because it's helping in fantasy football. The Chargers continue to impress me. I don't think they're a playoff team, but they are on the right track. At least I picked the Jags to cover the spread. That's something. Chargers 27-23
San Francisco (4-2) at Tennessee (3-3) 4:05 pm
I've been very impressed by the 49ers in the last three weeks. They started out the year 1-2 and have bounced back by winning 35-11, 34-3 and 32-20. In other words, they look like the Super Bowl team they were a year ago. While I don't expect them to score 30+ points per game the rest of the year, I think they'll be a double digit win team that nobody will want to face in the playoffs. It's a big game for the Titans because they're coming off two losses, sitting at 3-3 and playing a tough opponent at home. I've been impressed by them, but I don't think they match up well with the Niners. Can their offense consistently move the ball? I have my doubts. I expect the Niners defense to force some turnovers and Colin Kaepernick to capitalize on those mistakes. Niners 24-13
Houston (2-4) at Kansas City (6-0) 4:25 pm
The Texans are starting Case Keenum at QB against the Chiefs defense that is arguably the best in football right now (I pick Seattle for the record). I really don't like the Texans chances in this game. They are a sinking ship while the Chiefs continue to roll on. Chiefs 27-10
Baltimore (3-3) at Pittsburgh (1-4) 4:25 pm
I think the Steelers are a better team with LeVeon Bell at RB. The offense has more balance and it opens up the passing game more. The defense actually showed up last week as they dominated the Jets to win 19-6. I think their bye week after their 0-4 start opened their eyes and they are going to end up with 7 or 8 wins. It's just a feeling I have. The Ravens are a .500 team that plays close games (last three games decided by 3 points or less) because of the inconsistent QB play of Joe Flacco (7 TD, 8 INT) and a shaky defense. I'm going with the home Steelers just because I think they've righted the ship a bit, but I don't have too much confidence in it. Steelers 23-20
Cleveland (3-3) at Green Bay (3-2) 4:25 pm
I know the Packers have injuries all over the place (Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, James Jones), but I have very little confidence in Browns QB Brandon Weeden as a competent QB that I want to pick on the road. With the Pack getting production from rookie RB Eddie Lacy they have more balance on offense, so I think they'll control the game that way with QB Aaron Rodgers picking the right time to strike down the field. I like the Pack at home. Packers 24-14
Denver (6-0) at Indianapolis (4-2) 8:30 pm
I'm picking Denver. Why? More balance on offense. More consistency on that side of the ball. The Colts offense looked terrible in San Diego last week. I did pick the Chargers because I thought the Colts might look ahead to this game and I was right on the money with that. However, what that game showed me is the Colts are too one dimensional on offense because RB Trent Richardson is not as productive as I would have expected him to be. Maybe the offensive line is to blame. Maybe it's on him. It's a combination of that. The problem is when you're a one dimensional offense teams start to figure it out. I still like the Colts and think they will win their division, but the Broncos are on another level. Their offense is putting up a ridiculous 44 points per game. Their defense isn't doing that great, but who cares? If you can score over 40 per game you're going to win games.
This is also one of the most anticipated games of the year because Broncos QB Peyton Manning (can we just hand him the MVP trophy already?) is returning to the stadium where he led the Colts to their greatest successes. He was the MVP of their Super Bowl winning team too, in case you forgot. He'll likely receive a standing ovation there as he should. Letting him go was the right move financially and for the future of the team. Nothing wrong with having Andrew Luck running the show for the next 12-15 years. He's no Manning, though. Manning's playing out of his mind right now and his targets D. Thomas, Welker, Decker and J. Thomas are so difficult to stop. If you don't think those guys and the rest of the Broncos will play out of their minds to get Manning this win then you're out of your mind. I expect a lot of points and another Broncos win with Manning throwing 4 or 5 TD passes too. Broncos 41-27
Minnesota (1-4) at N.Y. Giants (0-6) 8:40 pm (MON)
I'm tired of picking these teams to win games only to watch them play like absolute crap. The Giants are giving up 34.8 points per game while scoring about half that amount yet they're favored by 3.5 points. It's because the Vikings have a lot of issues, but at they are trying to fix them by starting Josh Freeman at QB even though he's been there less than two weeks. This game is a mess. I doubt I'll watch much of it. I'm going with the Vikings because I'm ready for a 200 yard, 3 TD rushing game from Adrian Peterson. Vikings 34-27
Five Favorite Bets of the Week
Last week: 2-3 Season 10-19-1. Still struggling. The lines come from SportsBook.com.
@ Kansas City -6.5 over Houston - I love the Chiefs by a TD or more. Great odds.
San Francisco -4 over @ Tennessee - The Niners have momentum. Titans do not.
New England @ NY Jets UNDER 44 - I just think that number is too high.
Denver -7 over @ Indianapolis - With the way Denver is playing, I like them against any team in any stadium by a TD margin.
Minnesota +3.5 over @ NY Giants - Giants being favored is ridiculous even against a one win team.
That's all for me this week. Enjoy the games and good luck to you.