John Canton: It's week nine of the NFL season. As always I'm joined by Bret Clev and Mike Maloney to go over every game this week.
It's officially the midseason point of the year. By the end of this week, all 32 teams in the NFL will have played eight of their 16 regular season games.
I also want to personally thank the NFL for giving my beloved St. Louis Rams their bye week on Sunday because that's my birthday. Why thank them for giving them the week off? Because after the beatings the Rams suffered at the hands of the Packers and Patriots the last two weeks they deserve it.
Standings Straight Up After Week 8:
John 76-42 .644 (Last Week 12-2)
Mike 75-43 .636 (10-4)
Bret 75-43 .636 (9-5)
We all picked the Chargers to win on Thursday. We got that right. I had the score at 27-13 and they won 31-13. Of course I didn't bet on it. It's been a good year picking straight up for me, but bad for bets.
Like I've said before, if you can be .600 or above straight up you're doing well. The fact that all three of us are doing this good is pretty awesome. I'm sitting in 4th a group of 100 people at my local bar with some good prizes up for grabs and 3rd in the TJR pick 'em group on ESPN, so it's been a good year in that regard. Halfway through the season. I hope I can keep it going.
Byes: St. Louis, New England, NY Jets, San Francisco
All game times are Eastern.
Denver (4-3) at Cincinnati (3-4) 1:00 PM
Bret: A really tricky game here. Denver is rolling, and improving every week - both offensively and defensively - but coming off a Sunday night game. Cincinnati on the other hand is coming off a bye and playing at home.
However, I don't think an extra week of preparation will help a 29th against the pass Bengals defense prepare for the humming Denver offense. No weather concerns for Sunday, so nothing to slow down Manning there. Denver will get their 28 points.
Cincinnati has struggled getting to that number, having surpassed 27 only once this year. Denver's secondary has turned into its strength this year, and I don't see Green being able to carry the team for the entire game. They'll need something out of Ben Jarvis Green Average, and I don't see that happening. Denver 28 Cincinnati 20
Mike: Let the Denver win streak train keep on rolling! Actually this is a really big game for both teams. It's really one of Cincy's last chances to fight for a playoff spot, sitting at 3-4 and in the midst of a three game losing streak. And for Denver, they're in good shape at 4-3 right now, but with San Diego winning on Thursday, a loss would put them tied with the Chargers. Really there's no excuse for them to not win this division, so they don't want to waste any opportunity to put some space between them and San Diego. Unless Cincy all of a sudden learns how to play defense I don't see them winning this game. Denver has scored at least 34 points in three of the last four games, the run game looks a lot better than it has, which has opened things up for Peyton. Dalton is going to need to be perfect to keep this game close. Denver 31 Cincinnati 24
John: This could be an entertaining game. Neither defense impresses me that much while obviously Peyton Manning is playing as well as any QB in the league right now. I like Cincinnati's offense especially at home and coming off a bye week.
The issue with the Bengals is their running game is pretty bad (23rd in the NFL at 96.6 yards per game), so they have to rely on Andy Dalton throwing the ball hopefully (for their sake) to AJ Green. The Broncos are 8th against the pass and with a defensive minded head coach like John Fox you know they're going to make Green a priority. What I'm saying is I can see more of the Bengals drives stalling because of that reason. If they had better second and third options they'd probably be a playoff team. They are not a playoff team this year.
I think the Broncos are going to finish the second half of the year very strong. The offense is moving the ball down the field and they're good at finishing drives with touchdowns. Look for Manning to connect with Thomas and Decker for a few scores in this game. Broncos 31-24
Baltimore (5-2) at Cleveland (2-6) 1:00 PM
Bret: I really like where Cleveland is going, and I know there's temptation out there to pick them to win this game. I think you have to temper that excitement. Cleveland is a bad team who plays hard and has some things going for them. Baltimore is a good team with a lot of holes in the ship they're trying to patch.
Even with the holes, Ed Reed is still likely to play - taking away Weeden's ability to throw deep to Gordon, which is what Cleveland will need to do to win this game. With Reed taking away that deep ball, Baltimore will stack the line to stop the run, leaving the Cleveland offensive mostly ineffective.
Baltimore will play a safe game offensively, feeding the ball to Rice as much as possible to get away with a work-a-day road win. Baltimore 24 Cleveland 17
Mike: I think Cleveland's only chance is that Baltimore is 30th against the run this year (142.9 yards/game). Unfortunately, they're the 29th best rushing team (85.9) in the league, although some of that is likely due to the fact that they are generally losing most of the time. I like Baltimore coming off the bye week here, and while I know the Browns have technically won two of their last three games, Cincinnati has no defense, and that San Diego win was still just a terrible, terrible game of football. They also squeezed in a 17-13 loss to the Colts in between. I don't think the Ravens blow them out, but they should be able to take care of business. Baltimore 24 Cleveland 20
John: The Browns have this ability to bring teams down to their level of mediocrity especially when they are at home. They even did it to the Ravens in Baltimore on a Thursday night in week four when they lost by just seven points, so I think they will keep it close. The Browns lack talent in a lot of areas, but they play hard. That means they're a pesky bad team.
The Ravens defense that was once elite was able to get some rest on their bye week although I think they're still very average on that side of the ball. The key to this game will be the Browns running game. If they can give Trent Richardson 25 carries and he goes for 125 yards then I believe they might win the game.
The Ravens are 1-2 on the road this year with point totals of 23, 6 and 13. For whatever reason, Joe Flacco is a poor quarterback away from home. I think that trend will continue. However, I still like the Ravens to win an ugly game by just one point. Ravens 17-16
Arizona (4-4) at Green Bay (5-3) 1:00 PM
Bret: Poor Arizona. There's no shame in being a bad, 4-12, team - but 4 wins followed by 12 loses? That'll make for a tough season. And they're on their way to loss number 5 here. Though I expect Green Bay to treat this game much like they treated last weeks Jacksonville game - which by both their play and their personel decisions was pretty obviousy they were happy to control and win quietly.
Expect the same here. Arizona will be able to do nothing offensively once again - they won't all year with that offensive line/QB combo - Clay Matthews will have one of his days.
Aaron Rodgers will go for 275 and 3 TDs - continuing to gain confidence in his secondary set of receivers. Aaron wins a ho-hum one. Green Bay 27 Arizona 14
Mike: You know what's a good strategy to losing a game? Have John Skelton throw the ball 52 times. Seriously, I bet if you do that you are guaranteed to lose at least 90% of the time. This Cardinals offense is so bad. They have scored 36 points in their last four games. Sorry, but I don't see them heading into Green Bay and pulling off the win. That being said, I'd be pretty surprised if the Packers covered the 10.5 point spread. Arizona's defense is still quite good, and the Packers are still missing Greg Jennings and maybe Jordy Nelson once again. I'd expect both offenses to struggle, but since one offense actually has a capable quarterback I think they get the win. Green Bay 17 Arizona 10
John: The decline of the Cardinals continues for a team that was once 0-4. They have one of the worst offenses in football. They're coming off a home loss on Monday night against the 49ers where they got beat in every aspect of the game. Even their defense, which is supposed to be above average, looked like they were out of their league. Offensively they have issues with no running game and an offensive line that has given up 39 sacks on the year, which is 11 more than anybody else.
I'm mad at the Packers for not covering at home against the Jaguars last week. They were losing for the majority of the game too. I think their offense is definitely suffering without Greg Jennings and last week without Jordy Nelson, who might be out this week too. It's nice that they have depth with Randall Cobb and James Jones, but clearly Aaron Rodgers puts up better numbers when all four guys are healthy.
I could see the Cardinals keeping it close because of their defense, but I don't think that will happen. I think last week's loss to the 49ers really hurt them and they will continue their downward spiral. I like the Packers here in a big way. Packers 28-10
Chicago (6-1) at Tennessee (3-5) 1:00 PM
Bret: Here's another tough one in the same mold as the Denver/Cincy game. But once again, I think the better teams superior unit will keep them from losing the game.
Chicago is giving up a single TD per game - and I don't see how Tennessee manages more than that.
Tennessee on the other hand has given up the most points in the league. Not that I think the Chicago offense will take full advantage of that, but Tennessee's porous pass defense should cough up enough yards to Cutler and Marshall to win Chicago the game. Chicago 21 Tennessee 13
Mike: I have to wonder what's going to happen to the Bears when their run of turnovers returned for touchdowns runs out. They looked less than impressive against Detroit and they probably lose to Carolina if not for that awful pick six Newton threw in the fourth quarter last week. They are 30th in the league in passing (195.6 yards/game) and still only 9th in rushing (124.0 yards/game) and yet they sit at 6-1 specifically because of how many points their defense is scoring. Tennessee I've given up trying to figure out. Rolled over for the Texans and Vikings, looked surprisingly feisty against the Steelers and Bills, then really struggled to contain Indianapolis' offense and lost in OT. I don't think they have a chance here, but if they manage to not turn the ball over, who knows? Chicago 20 Tennessee 13
John: That Bears defense is impressive aren't they? They're 2nd in the NFL in points allowed (14.3 PPG), they have the most interceptions with 14 and they have scored six touchdowns as well. That excellent defensive play makes up for the erratic passing behavior of QB Jay Cutler, who continues to frustrate Bears fans week after week. Then you look at their record, realize they are 6-1 and think "okay maybe we have something super here." Key word is super.
I think the Bears will have offensive success because of how poor the Titans defense is. What Chicago has to do is open up the deep passing game or at least try to because if you show a willingness to throw a deep ball then it opens up everything else. When I watch the Bears their offense is too conservative. Cutler has a big arm. Let him use it.
I like the Bears to control the clock, run the ball with Matt Forte & Michael Bush, find Brandon Marshall when they need him and of course rely on that defense to get you excellent field position as they roll to another victory against a team they are better than. Bears 23-14
Miami (4-3) at Indianapolis (4-3) 1:00 PM
Bret: This, surprisingly, is the game of the week. Looking ahead at the schedules, both teams line up to have 7 to 9 wins at the end of the year, and this could very well decide the #6 wild card.
The injury to Reggie Bush which isn't out in the open is more important to this game than the injury to Tannehill. Bush hasn't been himself for weeks, and Moore isn't that much of a drop off from Tannehill. The Miami offense will do about what it always does in terms of medium range passing (they love those outs and curls) and off tackle running.
The real match up for this game is the Miami defense against the Indianapolis offense. I think this makes for a pretty nice chess match. Luck will have trouble finding the time to go deep, and will need to find his medium passing game and long drives to get down the field. Not having Fleener this weekend will hurt in that aspect, but Luck still has enough medium range options to achieve that. I really think this game is 50/50. I think Miami is the more talented team, so I'll pick them to win the game, but I'm taking the points ATS. Miami 23 Indianapolis 20
Mike: Another surprisingly important AFC game. Miami and the Colts are both somehow sitting at 4-3, and a win here would go a long way for either making a run at the playoffs. I think this game is a little more important to the Colts, with only three of their final eight games at home, and three games left against the Patriots and Texans. Miami still has three games left against the Patriots and the Niners, but they also get five of their final eight games at home. The Dolphins have shown themselves to be a good grind it out team, run the ball a lot, stop the run on the other side of the ball, keep the opponent to a low score kind of team. While Miami has struggled to run the ball the last few games, playing Indy is usually a good cure for that kind of problem. Look for Reggie Bush to go off and Luck have to play catch up. Miami 23 Indianapolis 13
John: It's a game where both teams are achieving considering one of them will be 5-3 after this game. I doubt many people had the Colts or Dolphins in line for a possible playoff push this year. Miami's built on defense and running the football while showing efficiency from the QB position whether it's Ryan Tannehill or Matt Moore. Considering they have a lackluster passing game, they should be commended for throwing only six INTs on the year so far.
The Colts victories have come from margins of 3, 3, 4 and last week's six point win in overtime. They've definitely had luck on their side this year, pun intended. I think they're playing inspired football considering their head coach Chuck Pagano is at home recovering from leuekemia. You can't deny the power of the human spirit in times like that. What worries me about them is they are -10 in turnover differential. They've had far too many fumbles and interceptions while not forcing the other team into mistakes.
This will be a close game. I'm leaning to the home team because Indy finds ways to make plays in the late stages of games. I think in this instance you'll see QB Andrew Luck targeting WR Reggie Wayne, who is having a great year once again. The Dolphins run game is the best in the league right now, so the Colts will throw and I think Luck will be able to move the chains with Wayne all game long. Give me the home team in another close finish for the Cardiac Colts. A new nickname? You're welcome. Colts 24-23
Carolina (1-6) at Washington (3-5) 1:00 PM
Bret: The Washington defense seems to be wearing down as the weeks go on, and I worry how the rest of the season will go on that side of the ball for Washington.
I think Carolina will have a chance to connect on some deep plays in this game, which will open up the running lanes, and allow Carolina to do what it's wanted to do all year long.
Washington should be able to move the ball as well, especially on the ground. Look for a big day from Alfred Morris in this one.
I think this will be a close game, and Carolina may be ahead in the 4th quarter. Great chance for RGIII to add to his legend. Washington 30 Carolina 24 (OT)
Mike: Couple of weird games last week. Washington really got beat down by Pittsburgh last week despite the Redskins not turning the ball over, and Carolina really should have beat the Bears last week, but Cam Newton ended up outdueling Jay Cutler in the battle of crappy quarterbacking. I still have no faith in Newton to go on the road and do anything even remotely approaching impressive, and Griffin had a subpar game last week and he seems like the kind of guy that would bounce back from those kind of games. The only real variable for me here is Washington's defense. They are dead last in the league in passing yards, and haven't given up fewer than 22 points all season. Washington should pull this out, but I like the over, so anything is possible. Washington 34 Carolina 28
John: When I mentioned the Colts I talked about how many close wins they've had this year. These are the point differential totals for the Panthers six losses this year: 6, 29, 2, 4, 5 and 1. Aside from that blowout loss to the Giants in week three, they are keeping games close. The problem with them is they don't run the ball well enough and their passing game lacks weapons that would obviously help them on game winning drives.
The major hype going into this game is about the QBs because Panthers 2nd year QB Cam Newton and Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III are electrifying talents that we assume are going to be having playoff games against eachother over the course of the next decade.
I think this has shootout potential. I know the Panthers is doing well by giving up 18.3 PPG, but I think they will have problems with Griffin as most teams do. I also think the Panthers will have their best offensive game of the year against a Redskins team that is as bad as the Saints, who were the only team the Panthers have beat this year. Both teams will reach the 30s. I like the Redskins to win it late thanks to the late game heroics of RG3. Redskins 37-31
Detroit (3-4) at Jacksonville (1-6) 1:00 PM
Bret: Detroit's in a really interesting place right now offensively. With the injury of Burleson, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles have possibly found the oppurtunity they need to pull the offense out of their funk. On the other hand, Calvin Johnson is clearly hobbled by injury.
Jacksonville is offensively just too bland to keep up with Detroit, despite Detroit's defensive issues. Detroit 28 Jacksonville 21
Mike: I feel like I can't pick against all the home dogs. Let's go with this angle: Detroit likes to play at the level of its competition. They looked surprisingly good against the Niners on the road, and yet they looked terrible against the Vikings and ended up in a defensive struggle against the Bears. So I think they will have a hard time getting out ahead of the Jaguars, even though on paper they're a superior team. Detroit will struggle to put up points, and this will end up being a battle of field goals, with Jacksonville pulling off the upset. Jacksonville 16 Detroit 12
John: I can't pick the Jaguars. I learned my lesson last week when I picked the Chiefs. Maybe if Maurice Jones-Drew was playing I'd pick them, but without their best offensive weapon this team has struggled mightily. Home field doesn't matter when the crowd knows it's a defeated team.
The Lions offense came alive last week with an impressive 28 point performance against a good Seahawks defense. I think they'll have similar success this week even without the superhuman performances by star WR Calvin Johnson. Lions 23-13
Buffalo (3-4) at Houston (6-1) 1:00 PM
Bret: I think this game will be closer than the 10 point line for sure. Houston's defense can be drove on, and Buffalo definitely has the talent to do that offensively. Defensively, Buffalo has had the extra week to get healthy and figure out what the hell is wrong with that D-Line.
Houston missing Ben Tate will likely hurt them as well, having a guy to take a series or two off Foster is a big part of what Houston does. I still think Houston wins this one, but Buffalo keeps it close - a lot like Jacksonville, Green Bay last week. Houston 27 Buffalo 23
Mike: Nothing about this matchup instills me with a lot of hope for the Bills. Against the bad offenses they've played they've given up 17 (Kansas City), 14 (Cleveland), and 16 (Arizona). Against the good offenses? 52 to New England, 45 to San Francisco, 35 to the Titans who maybe don't even have a good offense. This seems like it'll be a pretty typical game where Houston will get ahead in the first half and then just beat the Bills into the ground in the second half. I like Houston to win and cover here. Houston 42 Buffalo 17
John: I think this will be a blowout. The Texans are a very tough team to beat at home. Aside from the blowout loss to the Packers (hard to stop Aaron Rodgers when he plays like that), their average margin of victory at home is 24.7 points. That means they are beating teams by more than three touchdowns per game at home with that one exception.
On the other side of the ball, the Bills are turnover prone. The best way for the Bills to win games is if their running game gets going early and then it makes the passing game easier for them. I don't think they will run the ball that well in this game. That will lead to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing a few costly interceptions that will then open up a big lead for the Texans.
I'll leave you with these two stats. The Bills are last in the NFL in points against by giving up 32.4 points per game. The Texans are second in scoring with 30.9 points per game. The Texans are rested and healthy coming off the bye. They're going to run star RB Arian Foster down the Bills throats (Bills are giving up 176 yards rushing per game) and cruise to a blowout victory. Texans 41-20
Minnesota (5-3) at Seattle (4-4) 4:05 PM
Bret: The fall for Minnesota begins. Christian Ponder in the toughest place to play in the NFL? Not really a lot to say here. Seattle is one of the easiest teams in the league to predict when it comes to home games against average teams. Take Seattle. Seattle 20 Minnesota 14
Mike: I think we may be in store for some really bad QB play in this game. Christian Ponder has been pretty rough the last month, throwing 7 INTs his last four games compared to only six TDs. He had to throw the ball 52 times against the Redskins, and against Arizona he was 8-17 for 58 yards. Russell Wilson went 9-23 for 122 yards against the Niners, and he's thrown 7 INTs compared to six TDs in his last five games. Seattle's defense is third in DVOA right now, and I'm just expecting a terrible game from Ponder. I'd love to pick against the Seahawks, but I need to have a better team than the Vikings before I do that. Seattle 17 Minnesota 13
John: I think the Bucs win over the Vikings last week was the blueprint of how you beat the Vikings. Simply put, they were the more physical team. The Bucs ran Doug Martin all over the Vikings and they dominated that game every facet. The Seahawks gameplan is going to be very similar to that with Marshawn Lynch getting a lot of touches while they build up a big lead.
The Vikings do have offensive weapons in RB Adrian Peterson and WR Percy Harvin, but their play calling is too conservative. They don't throw the ball downfield very much partly because their second year QB Christian Ponder can be shaky at times, but also because I think they have a tough time getting open.
I tend to pick Seattle at home as long as the opponent isn't somebody that I consider to be an elite team. It's the best home field advantage in football. Most players would agree with that too. It will be a tough environment for the Vikings to play in and I think because of that the Seahawks should cruise to a comfortable victory thanks to a solid running game that they are known for. Seahawks 23-13
Tampa Bay (3-4) at Oakland (3-4) 4:05 PM
Bret: Usually, I always smell trap in Oakland for any team coming from the East coast, but Tampa Bay has really started to look solid offensively, and Oakland can't really handle any offense that's running well right now - they simply don't have the talent.
Oakland will need a big game from Palmer to win this one, and while his receivers are getting healthy, I still think he'll make too many bad decisions to allow that to happen. Tampa Bay 27 Oakland 20
Mike: SUPER BOWL REMATCH!!!...from ten years ago. That Buccaneers offense that showed up last week? I want to see more of that. Vincent Jackson is great, those are the kind of games Tampa was expecting when they signed him for so much money. Doug Martin looked really good, but we'll see how good he looks now that guard Carl Nicks is out for the season. The Raiders look sneaky with a 3-4 record, but I don't put a ton of faith into it, they should have lost to the Jaguars until Blaine Gabbert got hurt and Chad Henne's offense got them back in it. And their win last week against Kansas City isn't something I give them a ton of credit for since, well, it's Kansas City. I continue to like the Bucs, and I look forward to them being 5-4 after they beat the Chargers next week at home in an early game on the East Coast. Tampa Bay 35 Oakland 24
John: I really like what I'm seeing from the Tampa offense. They have a good young QB in Josh Freeman, a dynamic RB in Doug Martin who is having a Pro Bowl season as a rookie and two WRs in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. The key for them is the offensive line. It seems like more than half of the OL's in the league are below average, but their group opens up running lanes and protects Freeman well considering they've given up only 11 sacks on the year (5th lowest in the NFL).
I'm not sure what to think about the Raiders. They should be able to run the ball better than they do and the passing game is pretty average yet they find ways to stay in games. I guess it helps when you're coming off a two game winning streak because the last two teams you played are the Chiefs and Jaguars, who are probably the worst two teams in the league.
I like the Buccaneers here. I think their offense has figured things out and they're going to scare a lot of people to end this season. They'll probably finish with eight or nine wins and be one of those teams that everybody looks at next year as a potential playoff team. Their slow start will probably keep them out of the playoffs this year, but they are a team headed in the right directions. Buccaneers 30-17
Pittsburgh (4-3) at NY Giants (6-2) 4:25 PM
Bret: Obviously the best game of the week. I really don't have the Giants figured out yet. At times they look dominant (and I like them to do their thing come playoff time), but at other times they seem very, very, average.
Still, the Giants secondary is the healthiest it's been in years, while the Pittsburgh offense continues to have troubles in that department. The added protection in the back should allow the Giants D-Line to give Roethlisberger a real reason to limp around.
Without Polamalu in the back, covering Cruz in the deep middle will be very difficult for the Steelers - and they'll have to keep both safeties back, allowing the Giants to sustain a solid running game, eventually leading to some nice offensive numbers as a whole.
Baring a couple crippling turnovers, I think the Giants are just a better team and win the game. New York 27 Pittsburgh 21
Mike: Kind of a crazy story with the Steelers flying to the game the morning of, and not staying in a hotel because their hotel still doesn't have any power from the hurricane. I'd be more impressed if the players had to parachute in from the plane already dressed because the airport was still closed from flooding. I don't feel like I have a good handle on how good/bad either of these teams are. The Giants probably should have lost to the Redskins two weeks ago, and last week they were demolishing the Cowboys and very nearly blew that one as well if not for Dez Bryant's fingers. The Steelers looked pretty impressive against the Redskins last year but looked equally disappointing a couple weeks before that against the Titans. Definitely one of those games I would never bet on unless my life depended on it. And if it did, I'd keep it simple and go with the home team. New York Giants 25 Pittsburgh 20
John: I think a big reason for the success of the Giants is their offensive line. They're first in the NFL in giving up just seven sacks on the year, which is less than one sack per game in case you can't figure that out. I think a big reason for Eli Manning's great play is that he has time in the pocket to find his receivers. Since the Steelers pass rush is no longer elite (only 12 sacks this year), I think they'll have a tough time slowing down the Giants attack.
I know the stats say that the Steelers have the #1 pass defense, but that doesn't account for the penalties that Steelers CB Ike Taylor seems to commit every week. It seem like he does those back breaking pass interference penalties more than anybody else in the league. Considering how much the Giants like to throw it deep they will use that to their advantage.
What I like about the Giants is how smart they are. They call a good game, they don't commit a lot of penalties, they limit mistakes as best they can and they have depth all over the place. They're the superior team to me. People tend to overrate the Steelers because of what they've been in the past and I get that. They've earned that right. Their passing game is very good and has carried them to a few of their wins. I just think the Giants are superior in a lot of ways. It may be difficult for the Steelers to slow them down. Giants 31-21
Dallas (3-4) at Atlanta (7-0) 8:20 PM
Bret: I continue to want to pick against Atlanta, but I can't do it here. Too many injuries for the Cowboys. Too many offensive weapons for the Falcons. Another team that can't hang with that offense. Should be a fun game though. Atlanta 34 Dallas 24
Mike: I'm going to do a bad thing here and pick the Cowboys to upset. I don't have great reasoning for it either, but I've been waiting for the Falcons to stumble, and it seems like they're in a good spot right now. Fresh off the bye week, they came out and looked really good against the Eagles on the road, I think they're in a more comfortable place now than they were after some close games against the Panthers, Redskins and Raiders. So I think they're in the right mindset for an upset. The Cowboys are not a team to take lightly, despite some of the bad losses they've had this year. Both teams are pretty similar in makeup, they win by throwing the ball, not running it, and both are tough to throw against. Tony Romo's numbers are a little skewed this season, he has 9 TDs to 13 INTs, but if you take out the Bears and Giants games, he's thrown for 7 TDs and 4 INTs in the other five games. His completion percentage is still pretty good, and he's on pace to throw for over 4,000 yards. I think if he can take care of the ball (which with Romo is always easier said than done) I like their chances to pull off the upset. Dallas 20 Atlanta 17
John: Atlanta's the only undefeated team left in the NFL this season, yet I'm not sure if they would be considered the favorites to make the Super Bowl. We still have two months before that journey begins, but if you're a fan of the team I would say who cares what other people think. Focus on the positives. They're scoring 28.7 points per game (good for 5th in the NFL) and to the surprise of a lot of people they're 7th in points against as they give up just 18.6 points per game. The numbers don't lie. That's an average of a ten point victory right there.
What worries me about Atlanta is they tend to play down to their opponents. They barely escaped with home victories against bad teams like the Panthers and Raiders. That scares me because those are the games where you should dominate from start to finish if you're an elite team. Maybe they've learned from those games, though. We'll see about that going forward.
I picked the Cowboys to win the NFC East. It's not going to happen. Too many mistakes. Injuries have hurt them too, especially in their run game that has become non-existent when they need it. Their poor play late in games cost them the games against the Ravens and Giants that would have put them at 5-2 right now if they were able to execute better. The blame should go on head coach Jason Garrett for his poor play calling and also Tony Romo, who continues to make bad decisions at the worst times.
I like the Falcons here. I think they will play very well on the Sunday night stage with everybody watching them. Matt Ryan should be able to connect with his excellent group of targets Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. It's a hard offense to stop especially when that no huddle is working. I don't think it will be a blowout necessarily, but I'll go with the home team to win simply due to their ability to be consistent in all facets of the game. Falcons 31-24
Philadelphia (3-4) at New Orleans (2-5) 8:30 PM (MON)
Bret: Andy Reid (along with us) gets a respite from the "Trouble in Philly" stories for a week. This may be the worst defense we've seen in a decade. What the hell happened to Steve Spagnulo? Did he forget how to coach defense while in St. Louis - it's amazing to me how some things in the NFL just can't be explained.
There are some really potentially explosive ingredients here. Philadelphia having so many big play guys, New Orleans being bad terrible deep, Andy Reid needing a statement game, Mike Vick being pissed off. I really feel like this game could get real, real, ugly. I'll go out on a limb and predict it. Philadelphia 51 New Orleans 28
Mike: Is Philly's offense good enough to take advantage of New Orleans' terrible defense? Was the Saints' beat down last week at all related to the return of interim coach Joe Vitt? Is Drew Brees capable of having two substandard games in a row? Andy Reid is desperate to win this game to keep his job, Mike Vick is desperate to play well in this game to avoid getting benched, the Eagles in general are eager to win this game to keep afloat in the playoff race, the Saints...well, the Saints are still bad and have virtually no chance of making the postseason, but I still think there's no way Brees has another bad game this week. I think New Orleans pulls it out at home, and I'm rooting for a trainwreck type finish that the Eagles have trained us for. New Orleans 27 Philadelphia 24
John: These may be the two most disappointing teams in the league this year. I actually had the Saints missing the playoffs before the year, which surprised some people, but I think their defense has absolutely killed them. They didn't do much from a personnel standpoint to get better on that side of the ball. That's why they're giving up 30.9 points per game, which is 30th in the NFL.
The Eagles are a mess. I don't think Andy Reid will be their head coach next year and it's possible that Michael Vick will lose his starting QB job next year too. This game will be good for them, though, because the Saints defense can make anybody look good. If Reid is smart he'll hand the ball off to LeSean McCoy 30 times in this game because the Saints run defense is 31st in the NFL giving up 170.1 yards per game. Reid isn't always smart, though. He can be hard headed and he probably wants to throw the ball a lot too. Once again the numbers are there. Run the damn ball.
If I believed the Eagles will run the ball 30 times then I would pick them. I don't see them doing that, though. By not running as much as they should, they will leave a lot of opportunities for Drew Brees and the Saints offense to put up points on the board. What's funny about the Eagles is that people think they have this great pass defense yet they rank 14th against the pass and have been susceptible to the deep pass.
I like the Saints to win here. The Eagles should win and could win if they ran the ball more than they do, but again I blame Andy Reid's stubbornness for not doing the right thing once again. Use McCoy! He's your best player. Instead, they'll call too many pass plays, Vick will make mistakes like usual and the explosive Saints offense will turn those mistakes into points. Saints 37-33
The Degenerates Dungeon
This is where we give you some picks for our best bets of the week. Note that lines moves from the time we write this (Friday AM) to the time the games kickoff. We keep track of the odds and we'll use that to write down our records too.
Records so far:
Bret 21-17-2 (4-1)
Mike 20-20 (1-4)
John 17-23 (2-3)
I need to do better. This is the week!
1. Denver -3.5
Point of note. Wait until Sunday morning because the sharps might drive this line down to 3. That's the time to buy. Even at 3.5, I like my chances.
2. Philadelphia Over 24.5
Again, not great line mathematically, but I think they cover it easily. Everyone does!
3. Buffalo +10.5
Might be in garbage time, but I think Buffalo gets this to single digits.
4. Tampa Bay Pick 'em (+105)
Just a significantly better team than Oakland right now.
5. Philadelphia SU (+145)
I am in full on PANIC MODE. Let's right the ship this week!
Tampa Bay +1 @ Oakland - I always feel good betting against Carson Palmer.
Carolina @ Washington Over 47 - I like Washington to win and I also like them to give up at least 20 points, seems like a no brainer to me.
Arizona +10.5 @ Green Bay - The Packers' offense is just so beat up at key spots that unless they get points from defense or special teams I don't think they can cover this spread.
Buffalo @ Houston -10 - JJ Watt > Ryan Fitzpatrick
Detroit @ Jacksonville Under 44 - Field goal fest!
Buffalo @ Houston -10 - Home teams that are double digit favorites haven't done well. This one will…I hope.
Dallas @ Atlanta OVER 47.5 - Feels like a shootout to me.
Minnesota @ Seattle -4 - I have confidence in the Seahawks at home.
Tampa Bay +1 @ Oakland - The Bucs are 5-2 against the spread this season. I wish I bet on them more this year.
Detroit @ Jacksonville UNDER 44 - With Calvin Johnson banged up I think the Lions will have trouble putting up points. Good for the under.
That's all from us for this week. Follow us on Twitter:
You can also email John Canton at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.