NFL: Week 8 Picks

Bye Week: Titans, Jaguars, Giants, Packers, Rams and Cardinals.

Thursday Night Football

  • Dolphins @ Ravens: Don’t look now, but the Miami Dolphins are 4-2 on the season after a huge 4th quarter comeback against the Jets. Matt Moore came in after Jay Cutler was hurt and helped lead the charge. Baltimore has now lost 4 of their last 5 games. The Ravens offense hasn’t been able to sustain drives without a viable run game.  Neither team is very consistent on either side of the ball, but at home, I’ll take the Birds. BALTIMORE WINS

London Game

  • Vikings @ Browns: Minnesota is doing almost everything right at the moment, and have taken advantage of the Packers loss of Aaron Rodgers to move into first place in the NFC North. The Vikings have two pretty good options at running back, and while Case Keenum isn’t particularly impressive under center, the offense is at least giving themselves a chance, with six drives ending in made field-goals last week. Cleveland on the other hand doesn’t do much right, and are the lone win-less team in the AFC. 4 of their losses have been by 3 points, so maybe a glimmer of hope there, but the QB carousel continues as the Browns try to find a way into the win column. They might, but not this week, and not in London. MINNESOTA WINS

Sunday 1pm Games

  • Falcons @ Jets: The good news for Atlanta is they didn’t blow a big lead against the Pats in their Super Bowl rematch. The bad news for Atlanta is that they could only muster a garbage time touchdown. On the other hand, the Jets did blow a big lead on Sunday, allowing a 17-0 fourth quarter in favor of Miami. The offense was okay through 3 for New York, but nothing went right for them late. Both teams find themselves bottom half of their respective divisions, but the Falcons are on a 3-game slide after starting off hot and putting Super Bowl hangover questions to rest. I’ve been surprised by the Jets so far this season, but I like the Falcons to bounce back in this one. ATLANTA WINS
  • Panthers @ Buccaneers: Both of these NFC South teams are in the midst of losing skids.  Carolina is coming off an embarrassing performance against the Bears that saw them unable to find the end-zone once. The defense did it’s job, shutting down Chicago all game, but two of Cam Newton’s three turnovers were turned into scores. Tampa Bay lost in a back-and-forth game at Buffalo, despite a good day in the passing game by Jameis Winston. While the Bucs offense looked pretty good against the Bills last week, I think Cam Newton can, and will, bounce back from two bad games in a row. CAROLINA WINS
  • 49ers @ Eagles: The Niners streak of losing games by less than 3 points came to an end last week, but their losing streak did not. The only NFC team that is still win-less heads into action against the team with the best record through 7 weeks.  San Francisco was run up and down on by Dallas at home, while turning the ball over 3 times. Philadelphia easily handled Washington to end week 7. Carson Wentz continues to grow for the Eagles, and is making the Philly passing attack one with multiple big play options. A week ago I thought the Niners were moving in the direction of a win, but they took a serious step back and I don’t see any way they take down the Eagles this week. PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Bears @ Saints: Winners of four straight, the Saints find themselves on top of the NFC South. Drew Brees struggled a bit against the Packers last week, but Mark Ingram continues to put up big numbers on the ground. Not to mention much better performances from the New Orleans defense after they started off the season very poorly.  Chicago easily picked up their 2nd-straight win, thanks to a big defensive day by rookie safety Eddie Jackson, who had a fumble recovery for a touchdown AND a pick-six, both for over 75 yards. The Bears have won their last two, but they will need more from rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky this week, as the Saints offensive is just more potent. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Chargers @ Patriots: This AFC match-up features two teams trending up. Los Angeles is on a 3-game winning streak since starting 0-4. The offense and defense are both looking better, and the change at kicker helped turn things around. New England is back atop the AFC East and are on a 3-game winning streak of their own. The Patriots got a good game from Stephen Gostkowski and a mistake free performance from Tom Brady. The reigning champs have already lost two games at home this season, and I don’t see them picking up a third this week. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Raiders @ Bills: Oakland snapped their 4-game losing skid with a game-winning drive that saw penalties take away, then give them new chances to walk off with the 1-point win over KC. Broken back and all, Derek Carr threw for over 400 yards, and over half of those were to Amari Cooper. The Raiders survived with little production on the ground, and two misses by their kicker.  The Bills are also coming off a week 7 win over Tampa. Buffalo got a solid day in the air from Tyrod Taylor, coupled with two scores from LeSean McCoy on the ground. The pass defense for the Bills wasn’t great, so that’s where Oakland can take advantage, though I think Buffalo will control clock and hold off the Raiders. BUFFALO WINS
  • Colts @ Bengals: Indianapolis continues to struggle, and couldn’t find a way to put up any points in week 7.  The Jaguars defense put pressure on Jacoby Brissett all day, to the tune of 10 sacks and two forced fumbles. The good news for the Colts is that neither of those fumbles were lost, and there weren’t any turnovers. That can be carried over to this game against Cincinnati. As for the Bengals, they struggled on the road against Pittsburgh, and got shut out in the second-half. They were able to hold the Steelers to field goals for their final 5 scores, but that’s about all they can hang their hats on from last week. The Colts won’t be shutout again, but they won’t win either. CINCINNATI WINS

Sunday 4/4:25pm Games

  • Texans @ Seahawks: DeShaun Watson and company are coming off their bye looking to continue putting up big offensive numbers. They’ll have their hands full as the Seahawks defense has shown an ability to look like the Legion of Doom off the past. They did however allow the struggling Titans to score 33 a few weeks ago, so not all hope is lost. The Seattle offense has been the inconsistency for them so far, though they looked better in the second half last week against New York. I think this could be a pretty good defensive battle, but even if it gets to be a high scoring affair, I’m still siding with the home team in this one. SEATTLE WINS
  • Cowboys @ Redskins: The running game continues to improve for Dallas, who saw Ezekiel Elliot find the endzone twice on Sunday. Dak Prescott also three for three other scores and the defense made easy work of the 49ers. Washington kept things close with Philly last week, thanks to another good day from kicker Jake Elliot and a nice day in the passing game for Kirk Cousins. But the run game continues to struggle fo the Redskins, and the ability to win the time of possession is ultimately why the Cowboys will picks up the road victory. DALLAS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Steelers @ Lions: Pittsburgh has had some issues off the field, but on the field, they are starting to click in every phase. Le’Veon Bell has run for over 300 yards combined in their last two games (both wins) and after a 0 TD, 5 INT performance in week 5, Big Ben has been less error prone as well. Detroit is coming off their bye week, and enters on a 2 game slide. Their offense is putting up points, for both teams of late. In their week 6 loss to New Orleans, they allowed the Saints to force 5 turnovers and score 3 times. This game is going to be all about who hits harder, and who controls the clock. I like the Steelers in both cases. PITTSBURGH WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Broncos @ Chiefs: A big AFC West showdown caps off the week 8 action. After a 5-0 start, Kansas City has dropped two straight, including a heart-breaker last week in Oakland. The game came down to a final Raiders drive that saw them get an extra shot to score a game winning TD as time expired due to a defensive penalty. In week 5, Chiefs rookie back Kareem Hunt rushed for 107 yards; the last two weeks combined we ran for 108. Denver is struggling offensively as well, having scored just 10 points the last two weeks to teams with a combined 4 wins on the season. The Broncos were shutout, turned the ball over 3 times and were unable to turn any themselves. So who gets back on track? Give me Kansas City at home. KANSAS CITY WINS

NFL: Week 2 Picks

One week down. Many to go. I went 9-6 in week 1 pick wise, thanks to a lot of road wins that went my way.

Thursday Night Football

  • Texans @ Bengals: Both teams enter Thursday night 0-1, thanks in large part to poor performances from their starting quarterbacks. It took Houston just a half to make a switch from Tom Savage to rookie Deshaun Watson, but it the deficit was too much to overcome for the Texans. 4 turnovers by the Texans and a smothering Jaguars defense didn’t help the cause.  As for the Bengals, they also faltered at home to start the season, not scoring a single point against Baltimore. Andy Dalton had his first 4 interception game since December 2013, also against the Ravens. The defense wasn’t bad for Cincy, who managed to hold their opponent to a touchdown and 3 field-goals. So which team can avoid an 0-2 start? As much as I like the Texans, the uncertainty at quarterback and another home game for the Bengals has me going with the veteran. CINCINNATI WINS
Sunday 1PM Games
  • Bills @ Panthers: Buffalo and Carolina both enter action at 1-0.  Neither team had much trouble in week 1, though the Bills game was close in the end.  The Panthers didn’t play the best game ever, but it was more than enough against the Niners. Both defense did a very good job stopping the run in week 1, while the Bills did a better job on the ground themselves than the Panthers. LeSean McCoy is going to be key for Buffalo, and while I think he can get his yards against anyone, I don’t think it will be enough against Cam Newton at home. CAROLINA WINS
  • Bears @ Buccaneers: Tampa finally gets to play their first game of the season after their week 1 match-up with Miami was rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma. Chicago is back at it after a representative showing against the reigning NFC Champion Falcons. The Bears did an especially good job stopping the ever dangerous running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to a combined 53 yards. The issue will be stopping the Bucs passing game with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. Tampa will be rested and hungry. Give me the home team. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • Browns @ Ravens: Cleveland didn’t look terrible in their first game of the season with rookie QB DeShone Kizer at the helm, but they still fell to the Steelers. They allowed one of the best receivers in the league to beat them. It happens. Baltimore completed the only shutout of the week, and it was largely because of the defense. Joe Flacco didn’t do much in the passing game other than a long TD pass to off-season acquisition Jeremy Maclin. The running game was sufficient against the Bengals as well.  Their ability to control clock, unlike what the Browns showed in week 1 is a big reason why I believe the Ravens will move to 2-0 this season. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Titans @ Jaguars: Jacksonville’s week 1 win was maybe the most surprising to me because of how dominant they were against the Texans on the road. I knew their defense would be good this season, but to rack up 10 sacks, cause four turnovers and score in week 1 is impressive for anyone. And their running game was great, with a big first game from rookie Leonard Fournette. As for Tennessee, they held their own against the Raiders, but would ultimately fall short. They were able to hold Oakland’s offense down enough to give them a chance, and were able to get some things going offensively themselves against a good defense. So while the Jags were so impressive in week 1, I’m going to take the chance and say Mariota finds a way to stay on his feet and get the road victory. TENNESSEE WINS
  • Cardinals @ Colts: Arizona took two bad losses in week 1. They allowed the Lions to walk all over them in the second half, and lost their best offensive weapon in running back David Johnson for at least half the season.  The Cardinals offense struggled even before Johnson went down and they committed four turnovers. The good news from them is they travel to play a Colts team without Andrew Luck for at least another week. Credit to the Rams defense, but Scott Tolzien and the Colts as a team had about as bad a performance to start a season as I can remember. They managed to score until the Bengals, but that’s little solace. Tolzien threw two pick sixes and the Rams scored a week 1 high 46 points. So if there is a team to play to get your first win, it’s Indianapolis, even without your best offensive weapon. ARIZONA WINS
  • Eagles @ Chiefs: Kansas City put the Jaamal Charles era behind them real quick, thanks to a record-breaking debut by Toledo’s Kareem Hunt. Alex Smith also did whatever he wanted in the pass game against the Patriots to open up the season. The defense had a problem holding the run game in check in the redzone, but other than that, they looked pretty good as well. The bad news for the Chiefs is they lost their best defensive player Eric Berry for the season.  Philadelphia allowed the Redskins to stay close for 3 quarters, than went 11-0 in the fourth to pick up the road win. Carson Wentz spread the wealth in the passing game, and the defense was able to get a good amount of pressure on Kurt Cousins.  So which team gets to 2-0? I’m rolling with the Chiefs in this one. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Vikings @ Steelers: Sam Bradford was probably the most surprsing perofmrance of week 1, for a good rrason. The former first round pick came to Minnesota last sason and had his momemnts, but was mostly carreid by a very good Vikings defense. But against New Orleans, he shined. Temper expectations as it looked like anyone could throw against the Saints defense, he didn’t make any mistakes and Stefon Diggs looks like a legitmate weapon in the passing game. Pittsburgh alsmost lost to the Browns in week 1, despite having Le’Veon Bell to start the season, unlike last year. But Antonio Brown had a huge game and it all worked out.  They’ll need more from their skill positions in week 2 if they hope to move to 2-0. And while the Steelers defense is no slouch, I give the edge to the Vikings in this one. MINNESTOA WINS
  • Patriots @ Saints: The Patriots aren’t used to losing week one, while the Saints lost their season opener for the fourth straight season. Both teams struggled on defense, with the Pats allowing the aforementioned rookie back Kareem Hunt to run for 148 yards and the Saints allowing Sam Bradford to throw down field all night. Tom Brady looked shaky, while Drew Brees got better as the game went on. New England had the better run game in week 1, while the Saints tried to work Adrian Peterson into the mix, and failed. I liked the Saints to make a turnaround this season, but they left their defense in the preseason, and even though Brady wasn’t at his best, now you get a mad and hungry championship squad with the ability to score with anyone. I’ll go road team to take the victory in the Super Dome. NEW ENGLAND WINS
Sunday 4/4:25PM Games
  • Jets @ Raiders: New York almost found a way to get a week 1 victory against Buffalo, but fell short. Their opponents were able to get a win, quite easily on the road against Houston.  The Raiders looked solid in week 1, picking up the road win at Tennesee. They got a pretty good first game out of newly acquired Marshawn Lynch, and David Carr looked good under center. New York needs more from their own running game this week if they want to steal one in Oakland, but against this defense, that will be a big task. OAKLAND WINS
  • Dolphins @ Chargers: LA had a problem closing out games last season, and it continued in week 1. They had a chance on the road against Denver, but lost when they couldn’t kick a game tying field-goal as time expired. Miami, like Tampa, gets their first crack at things after Irma, with Jay Cutler now under center for the injured Ryan Tannehill. I don’t know what to expect from Cutler, who at the very least got another week of work in after taking a job in the booth in the off-season. But I don’t expect much with how he played in Chicago last season. I liked what the Chargers were able to do in the second half to make it a game with the Broncos, and I expect that to carry over this week. LOS ANGELES WINS
  • Cowboys @ Broncos: Dallas made easy work of their division rivals in week 1, but it wasn’t the sharpest game offensively for them. Part of that was the Giants defense doing a good job on Ezekiel Elliot.  But their own defense got good pressure, a good sign moving forward. Denver had to hold off a 2nd \-half comeback by the Chargers, thanks in big part to them leaving points on the board with a couple of big drops, and a missed field-goal by the usually on target Brian McManus. But overall it was a good showing by both teams, and this should be a fun game. It’ll be about who can control the clock, and while Dallas can do that with the best of them, palying in Denver presents it’s own challenges. That’s why I give the edge to teh Broncos in this match-up of 1-0 teams. DENVER WINS
  • Redskins @ Rams: Washington turned the ball over way too much against the Eagles in week 1, and couldn’t get anything going on the ground. Not a recipe for success, especially since they now face a tougher defense in week 2 on the road.  The Rams did what they were supposed to do and more in week 1, scoring at will on both sides of the football against a subpar Colts team. And with the big plays allowed by the Redskins in week 1, LA shouldnt have a problem doing so again this weekend. LOS ANGELES WINS
  • 49ers @ Seahawks: Neither team had a good showing offensively in week 1.  But Seattle has one of the better defenses in the league and you saw that in the way they held Aaron Rodgers at home at bay for so long Sunday. San Francisco did a good job of holding down a very good mobile qurterback in Cam Newton in week 1, so that’s where they’ll have to hang their hopes this week, in holding Russell Wilson down, who doint do much in week 1 himself. That being said, it’s hard to go into Seattle and win, and I don’t see the Seahawks going 0-2. SEATTLE WINS
Sunday Night Football: 
  • Packers @ Falcons: Neither Green Bay nor Atlanta had an easy time of it in week one, though the Packers faced a far tougher opponent than the Falcons.  It took Aaron Rodgers some time to get going against a very good Seattle defense, but he made the plays late to get his team another home win. Matt Ryan’s passing game didn’t look scared, finding another weapon in tightend Austin Hooper, but the run game seemed to have a Superbowl hangover. The Falcons have one of the best backfields in football, and they’ll need them to figure things out in week 2, so they can keep the ball out of Rodgers’ hands as much as possible. I expect this to be more of a shootout than either played in week 1, and give me the Falcons at home in this one. ATLANTA WINS
Monday Night Football
  • Detroit @ Giants: Color me impressed with how the Lions played in week 1. I thought for sure the Cardinals defense would have their way with them, but it wasn’t so. They took advantage of a big injury, and scored off turnovers. The Fiants on the other hand, were a mess on offense. They either gave Eli Manning no time to throw, or when they did, there were either drops or overthrows. The defense was ok, but not as good as you would have haoped. The siliver linging is when Manning did connect with his young playmakers, they were for big gains. With Odell Beckham Jr. expected back, it gives Manning another option.  But they’ll need more , much more form their running game if they expect to win many games this season. I think the New York crowd will get them going. NEW YORK WINS

NFL: Week 5 Picks

We’re through a fourth of the NFL season, and 3 undefeated teams remain: the Eagles, Vikings and Broncos.  These are three teams who’s defenses have been smothering, and who are starting different quarterbacks then they ended their season’s with last year.

Through four weeks, I have a 34- 30 record picking games.  Here are my thoughts on week 5.

Bye Week: New Orleans, Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Kansas City

Thursday Night Football

  • Cardinals @ 49ers: Arizona has gotten off to an p-and-down start to the season, and it continued Sunday against LA. The Cardinals out-gained the Rams 420-288 yards, but committed five turnovers, including fourth quarter interceptions by backup Drew Stanton after Carson Palmer left with a possible concussion. They find themselves with a 1-3 record, and tied with their week 5 opponents at the bottom of the NFC West. San Francisco got off a great start in week 4, putting up 14 points quickly on the Dallas Cowboys, but struggled the rest of the game.  So who can get back on track this week and pull themselves out of the cellar? I’m taking the birds, even with them having to start Stanton under center Thursday. ARIZONA WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Texans @ Vikings: Houston is the only team in the AFC South with a winning record, and other than a 27-0 drubbing in week 3, have looked pretty good.  They got their first win without JJ Watt, thanks to breakout performance from Will Fuller, the first player in franchise history to have a TD reception and a punt return for a score in the same game Minnesota’s defense is really, really good and the biggest reason they remain undefeated. Sam Bradford has been pretty good in purple and they’re succeeding without Adrian Peterson. They’ll lose soon, but it won’t be in week 5. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Bears @ Colts: Chicago picked up their first win of the season this weekend, snapping a six-game losing streak. Brian Hoyer was great in his second start for injured starter Jay Cutler, finishing 28-36 for 302 yards and two touchdowns.  The run game got going as well, while the defense picked off Matt Stafford twice in a three-point win.  Indianapolis has to rebound from a loss, in London, to the Jaguars.  Andrew Luck continues to be a no-show in the first half of games, as he threw all three of his touchdowns in the 4th quarter.  The Colts offense was plagued with dropped balls and a costly Luck interception that led to Jacksonville’s first touchdown. And their defense didn’t help, drawing costly penalties to extend a number of Jacksonville’s drives. I want to pick the Colts, who can still rebound from this slow start, but if the Bears can get another game on the ground like they did last week, they’ll get a second straight win. CHICAGO WINS
  • Jets @ Steelers: Two bad weeks in a row for the Jets have them at 1-3 heading into a game with a Steelers team coming off a drubbing of the Chiefs. The same Chiefs who had a field day on defense two weeks ago against New York.  Pittsburgh got Le’Veon Bell back, and it looked like he hadn’t missed any time.  It was another bad week for Ryan Fitpatrick and the New York offense.  The Jets defense let a supposedly hobbled Russell Wilson off the hook, and while they are capable of stopping good teams, I like the home team in this one. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Titans @ Dolphins: Miami continues to struggle, and you have to ask when changes will be made.  They spent all this money last off-season on the defense, yet they’re bottom five there, with an 0-4 record.  Sure they played Cincinnati a week ago, but they’ve been pretty bad on both sides of the ball all year. AJ Green nearly had more receiving yards (173) than Ryan Tannehill did passing (189). Meanwhile, the Titans haven’t been much better in year two of Marcus Mariota.  They’re middle of the pack on both sides of the ball.  This is a good game for both to get things going and get some confidence, so who gets the win? Tennessee has been in every game this season, so I’ll take them to get the road victory this week. TENNESSEE WINS
  • Eagles @ Lions: Philadelphia is alone atop the NFC East, thanks to a great start from rookie Carson Wentz, and a very good defense.  Detroit has lost its last three games after barely holding on to a week 1 win in Indianapolis. Matt Stafford hasn’t been crisp, and they’re not getting much out of the running game. The Lions have been in every game, win or lose, while the Eagles have had an easy time of it early.  They’ll be well rested coming off their bye week and it will show in another victory.  PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Patriots @ Browns: New England gets  Tom Brady back from suspension after suffering a rare loss at home, a very rare shutout loss, and their first of the season.  That being said, the Pats are in a good place at 3-1 as they welcome back their starter.  Cleveland remains the lone win-less team in the league, despite being right there at the end the of each game the past two weeks. Brady missing 4-games at his age could mean great things for New England, meaning he’ll be fresh, or it’ll mean he’s a bit rusty this week.  Or both.  Cleveland has looked better on offense the past two weeks, particularly on the ground.  But they couldn’t stop the Skins in the red-zone, where Brady thrives.  It’ll be close, but I’ll take the road team here. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Redskins @ Ravens: Washington comes in winners of two straight; Baltimore; off their first loss of the season.  The Skins were great in the red-zone of the second week in a row, and Kirk Cousins continues to be very accurate.  The Ravens lost a one point game to Oakland at home where they both out-gained and held the ball longer.  A successful two-point conversion on a fourth quarter touchdown for Baltimore was immediately followed by a foolish taunting penalty, and then a game winning drive from Derek Carr. Can Washington make it three-straight wins, or will the Ravens pick up their fourth win of the season? It’ll come down to red-zone defense and the run game.  We know both of these quarterbacks in Cousins and Joe Flacco can air it out.  I like the Ravens run game, and trust their defense at home more. BALTIMORE WINS

Sunday 4PM/425PM Games

  • Falcons @ Broncos: This is a match-up of two of the hottest teams in the NFL.  Atlanta is on a three-game winning streak, scoring at least 45 in the last two.  They’re the only team above .500 in the NFC South and coming off a game where Matt Ryan threw for over 500 yards against the Panthers.  Denver meanwhile, hasn’t lost since a week 15 road loss last year to the Steelers; and their last home loss came in week 10 last year to the Chiefs.  The Broncos defense hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in a game this season, so this will be a test of an extremely hot defense, versus an extremely hot offense. Which wins out? I’m going with the old adage that defense wins championships; the reigning champs will remain undefeated. DENVER WINS
  • Bengals @ Cowboys: Dallas hasn’t lost since week 1, and even that should have probably been a win.  They’re getting huge production from their rookies with no sign of slowing down.  The Bengals got back on track and evened their record up in week 4 against the Dolphins.  Both teams have defenses capable of making the stops down the stretch when necessary, but with no Dez Bryant, the Bengals have the biggest play threat on the field in A.J. Green, and that’s why I like them to snap the Cowboys win streak. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Chargers @ Raiders: San Diego’s problem this season hasn’t been scoring, it has been their inability to finish games this season, losing by less than a score each time. Oakland is starting to figure things out on offense, winners of two straight including handing the Ravens their first loss of the season. The Raiders defense is actually allowing the most yards per game, and the 11th most points per game, so there’s work to do there.  They’re going to beat the Chargers this weekend, on the strength of their offense. OAKLAND WINS
  • Bills @ Rams: In week 4, the Bills did something most teams in the Belichick era, shut out the Pats in New England. The deefnse, as well as LeSean McCoy had big gmaes for Buffalo.  The LA Rams are playing up to their competition this season, and finishing the job.  They took advantage of the Cardinals losing Carson Palmer last week, and find themselves 3-1.  Considering they havent had a winnning season 2003, this is a huge thing in itself.  Their offense is inconsistent, which is where Buffalo  will take advantage. BUFFALO WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Giants @ Packers: After starting the season 2-0, the Giants have sputtered in all areas of the game the past two weeks.  They’ve allowed big play after big play on defense, while not getting any of their own on offense.  Turnovers on special teams and offense aren’t being nullified with forcing opponents to do the same.  Green Bay hasn’t been as sharp as they’ve been in the past, but will be rested after their bye week.  The Giants have won the last three match-ups in this series, but I’m taking Aaron Rogers in this one. GREEN BAY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Buccaneers @ Panthers: Carolina should be worried. They looked lost against Atlanta this past week, never having an answer on how to cover Julio Jones, a guy you should always game plan for as a top priority.  Tampa Bay is in the bottom third scoring wise in the league, despite putting 30-plus points on the board in two of their first four games.  Their defense has allowed at least 24 in each game as well.  So this is a good game for the Panthers to figure some stuff out on both sides of the ball before they fall any further in the standings. CAROLINA WINS

NFL: Week 4 Picks

5 undefeated teams remain as we head into week 4 of the NFL season.  I went 9-7 a week ago, bringing my season total to 26-22.

Bye Week: Philadelphia and Green Bay

Thursday Night Football

  • Dolphins @ Bengals: Miami barely squeaked by the Browns last week, while the Bengals were beat down by the defending champs at home.  The Dolphins got a big day from Jarvis Landry, but inconsistency continues to plague Ryan Tannehill, who threw a pick six in the win. Cincinnati got their running game going, but still lost to 1-2 for the first time in five years.  After two very good weeks, Andy Dalton couldn’t do much against the Broncos defense. I like the Bengals at home with another good rushing game to get their second win of the season. CINCINNATI WINS

Sunday Morning Football 

  • Colts @ Jaguars: London here they come! Indianapolis got their first win of the season last week, while Jacksonville is still looking for theirs.  Andrew Luck has the uncanny ability to turn a bad day into a big day passing the ball, but the Jaguars defense isn’t the problem so far, so he’ll need help.  Blake Bortles on the other hand, has been pretty awful for Jacksonville in his third year under center. So what happens this weekend across the pond? Give me a cleaner day from Luck to lift the Colts. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Patriots: Three different quarterbacks have started for New England, but that hasn’t stopped the winning.  And as for the Bills, they got their first win over a team many think, myself included, are a playoff team destined for a deep run.  Both teams got big two-touchdown games out of their number 1 running backs, so look for another day of running the clock. The Patriots have to get through one more week without Tom Brady, and while they’ve done a great job doing so, and are very, very good at home, I’m taking the road team in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Titans @ Texans: It was a very bad week for Houston, who not only lost their Thursday game versus New England 27-0, they learned that JJ Watt re-injured his back and will be out the rest of the year.  Tennessee’s week wasn’t much better, as they scored just 10 points in their loss to Oakland. Both teams enter action having scored the same amount of points through 3 games, but of course that’s skewed with the Texans O-fer last weekend. Marcus Mariota and Brock Osweiler have both thrown 4 interceptions so far this season, so whoever can limit mistakes has the edge. A Titans win puts them in a tie for the division early.  But I don’t think they get it, because I like the Texans skill position players better. HOUSTON WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: The Lions are 1-2, but haven’t struggled in the passing game, as Matthew Stafford has found a new weapon in Marvin Jones after Calvin Johnson called it a career in the off-season.   The silver lining there for the 0-3 Bears is that their defense has actually done okay against the pass so far this season.  Chicago got a pretty good game out of Brandon Hoyer, who finished 30-49 for 317 yards, though most of that came with the game out of hand already. Both teams have the ability to get the points in the air, and with two middling defenses, that shouldn’t be a problem.  So this game will be won in the trenches, and the edge there lies with the Lions. DETROIT WINS
  • Panthers @ Falcons: Carolina is another team I thought would have a great season, but has disappointed so far.  Thanks to the struggles of the Panthers and the rest of the NFC South, Atlanta finds themself atop the division early on in the season.  This dispite allowing 31, 28 and 32 points in their first three games.  The Falcons may not be getting sustained success in their ground game early, they are getting it when it counts.  Tevin Coleman has just 110 yards on the ground, but has 4 rushing touchdowns, including 3 on Sunday in New Orleans. Carolina entered action red-hot at home dating back to 2014, but we shut down by a red-hot Vikings defense a week ago.  I still believe in the Panthers defense, and as hot as Atlanta has been, I think Carolina gets the win on the road. CAROLINA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Jets: The good news for Jets fans? Ryan Fitzpatrick can only be better than he was a week ago. The bad news? He has to be a lot better against the top defense in the league. After scoring just 3 points against L.A. in week 2, the Seahawks exercised some demons putting up 37 against the Niners.  Russell Wilson was hobbled in the game, but still managed to leave with a nice lead.  Big games from Christine Michael and Doug Baldwin helped get the offense back on track.  New York can solace in the fact that they have had a pretty good run game all season, and while some of it came in garbage time, Seattle did allow the Niners to get over 130 yards on the ground, finding pay dirt twice.  This shouldnt be as ugly for the Jets as it was last week, but it will still be a loss. SEATTLE WINS
  • Raiders @ Ravens: Baltimore finds itself among the undefeated teams heading into week 4, in large part thanks to their defense and a good day from kicker Justin Tucker.  The Ravens are second in total defense through 3 weeks of play.  Their opponents won their 2nd game by  forcing three turnovers, with a sack after entering week 3 having allowed the Saints and Falcons to walk all over them.  So based on defenses, Baltimore should have an easy win.  But I actually like Oakland’s offense a lot more, and as someone who thinks this is a playoff team, I’ll take the Raiders in the upset. OAKLAND WINS
  • Browns @ Redskins: Cleveland should’ve gotten their first win of the season in Miami a week ago, but an inability to stop the air attack, and three missed field goals left them at 0-3. They gave themselves a shot, but couldn’t take it.  Cody Kessler’s first career start wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good for Cleveland, though at this point, coming out healthy is huge for the Browns. Washington did get their first win, taking down the Giants on the road. After a couple lackluster offensive weeks, Kirk Cousins let it loose and got a number of big plays in the passing game to help get that first win and move back in the right direction to defend their NFC East title.  So can the Browns get their first win this week? Yes. Will they? I don’t think so. They stayed in last week thanks to mistakes by Tannehill, but Cousins won’t make those same mistakes. WASHINGTON WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Broncos @ Buccaneers: The Superbowl Champs are showing no signs of slowing down as they look to start the season 4-0.  Denver got off to a slow start last week against the Bengals, but came on strong late thanks to a big day from rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian.  Siemian threw four touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter for the win.  Not to be outdone, the Broncos are a top flight defense that held down Andy Dalton and their rushing attack.  They’ve got another tough test when they take on Jameis Winston this weekend.  The Bucs 2nd year quarterback is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes so far with 8, though he has thrown six picks to.  It won’t be a blowout, none of Denver’s games really have been, but it will be another win for the Broncos. DENVER WINS
  • Rams @ Cardinals: I’m shocked at the start the Cardinals are having at just 1-2. Carson Palmer has had a bad TD-turnover ratio through 3 weeks.   Arizona isn’t getting quite out of David Johnson on the ground, while their defense is allowing the 5th most rushing yards per game.  This is as good a week as any to get back to what they want to do in all phases as they take on their division rival Rams, who find themselves tied atop the division at 2-1.  Los Angeles has rebounded nicely from a shutout on opening day, winning their last two games.  The Rams tend to play up or down to their opponents, evident by a 9-3 home win over Seattle and a 37-32 shootout on the road in Tampa Bay.  Going off those results,  I’ll take the Cardinals at home in what should be a close game throughout between these two West foes. ARIZONA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Niners: Dallas couldn’t have asked for more from rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot through three weeks.  The Tony Romo-less Cowboys were a game-winning field-goal away from being 3-0 right now. Dez Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee but is still expected to play this weekend.  San Francisco was manhandled in week 3, and still isn’t making a change back to Colin Kaepernick.  The biggest thing the Niners have going for them is Carlos Hyde has looked pretty good.  I like what the Caowboys have done this season, but I have a feeling about San Fran this week. It might be a bad feeling, but I’m rolling with it. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Saints @ Chargers: It’s still early, but the Saints need to start picking up some wins quickly if they want to make the playoffs as I predicted they would as a wildcard team in the NFC.  The offense hasn’t been the problem.  Drew Brees is already over a 1,000 yards passing, with an 8-1 touchdown to interception ratio, though that one interception last week was a fourth quarter pick six for Brees.  New Orleans defense hasn’t been been able to stop anyone, as they’ve allowed the 2nd most total yards.  Worst at stopping the run, that’s where the Chargers will need to take advantage this week.  But without Danny Woodhead, San Diego needs Melvin Gordon to get going, so this is the perfect opportunity for that.  I like Philip Rivers, but I like Drew Brees more.  Give me the road team to get win number 1 this week. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Chiefs @ Steelers: What a defensive performance put on by the Chiefs this past week! Two defensive touchdowns and six interceptions helped Kansas City get the easy win over the Jets.  The offense wasn’t great, but they didn’t need to be with that showing on defense.  Alex Smith continued to show his game management skills, and why Travis Kelce is one of the better tight ends in the league right now. They’ve got a desperate Steelers team thsi week, who didn’t score a touchdown in a week 3 beatdown by the Eagles.  After two very good weeks, DeAngelo Williams was stymied on the ground, so the rushing attack will gladly welcome back Le’Veon Bell from suspension this week. The biggest test for the Kansas City defense will be stopping Antonio Brown, but I don’t think it will matter much even if he does have a big day. KANSAS CITY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Vikings: This should be a battle of two unbeatens, but a late game collapse left the Giants at 2-1 heading into today.  Too many penalties, a couple late turnovers and allowing Washington to open up the field multiple times led to the home loss for New York.  They lost Shane Vereen to a triceps injury as well.  Eli Manning and company need to do more in the passing game, and they have the capability with three wide receivers.  The bad news for New York is that the Vikings are running on all cylinders right now.  Their defense has been relentless through three weeks, and despite losing starting QB Teddy Bridgewater before the season started, the offense has been very good.  Sam Bradford has come in and fit in better in two weeks then he’s done in the first few seasons of his career.  It’s going to be tough for the Giants on the road, but I like New York will figure things out and get back in the win column.  NEW YORK WINS

NFL: Week 3 Picks

We’ve reached week 3 of the season, and still have 8 undefeated and 8 winless teams. There have also been a lot of big injuries early that will have a big impact on week 3 and beyond.  As for my picks, I’m 18-14 through 2 weeks. Here’s what I’m thinking going into week 3.

Thursday Night Football

  • Texans @ Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo left with a shoulder injury for New England, who still managed to move to 2-0.  This was thanks in large part to Garoppolo’s 3 touchdown passes before his injury as well as a big performance from LeGarrett Blount in the run game. The Texans took down the Chiefs on the strength of their defense to move to 1-1, a stark difference from their 33-0 loss to Kansas City in the playoffs.  Without Garoppolo, I think the Texans will do enough to get another win to start off the week 3 action. HOUSTON WINS

Sunday 1pm Games

  • Ravens @ Jaguars: Baltimore got very lucky in week 2, as they overcame a 20-0 1st quarter deficit to improve to 2-0.  Cleveland never scored again, while Joe Flacco brought his team back with a 25-45, 302 yard performance.  Their opponents have been disappointing to me so far.  While I didn’t think the Jaguars were going to make the playoffs this season, I thought they’d be better than they’ve shown, starting 0-2 again after They crossed midfield only six times and committed three turnovers. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Lions @ Packers: Both teams enter 1-1 after losing in week 2, and are looking to keep pace with the 2-0 Vikings.  The Packers lost their game in the 4th quarter, turning the ball over twice, while allowing Rodgers to be sacked 5 times. Detroit also lost their game in the 4th quarter when they were outscored 13-0 by the Titans, including a 93-yard game winning drive.  The Lions didn’t have a go to back in week 2, losing Ameer Abdullah to an injury.   So who gets back in the win column this week? I’ll take the Packers at home with a much-needed big day from Eddie Lacy. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Redskins @ Giants: Washington won the NFC East a year ago, but have opened up this season 0-2.  Struggles in the red zone and an inability to force turnovers meant a loss in a back-and-forth affair with Dallas last week. New York’s offense moved up and down the field pretty easily on Sunday, but also struggled in the redzone, and had too many turnovers in the 1st half.  But the defense and special teams stepped up and they moved to 2-0. So who takes this division matchup?  Give me the home team to get over their redzone struggles and take advantage of Eli Manning’s league leading completion percentage, which should be even better as the Giants receiving core dropped at least 5 balls in week 2. NEW YORK WINS
  • Browns @ Dolphins: For the 5th week in a row (dating back to last season), Cleveland will be starting a different QB.  Someone should tell them this isn’t baseball, there’s no starting rotation in football.  Even with the QB carousel, the Browns almost, and should have, pulled out their first win in week 2.  They were up 20-2 on the Ravens, thanks in big part to their ground attack, but fell late.  Miami isn’t in any better a position than their week 3 opponents, as they enter action at 0-2 as well.  The Dolphins were down big early to the Pats, but made a comeback after Jimmy Garoppolo went down with an injury.  Cleveland will be in this game until the end because Miami has had issues stopping the run early.  But even of Isaiah Crowell goes big on the ground, I still think they pull out the win at home. MIAMI WINS
  • Vikings @ Panthers: Minnesota will now be without their starting QB and running back for the rest of the season after Adrian Peterson went down in their game on Sunday night. The Vikings defense looked stong against Aaron Rogers in week 2. As for Carolina, they rebounded offensively in week 2, but they still struggled a bit on defense, allowing the Niners to score 27.  They’ll be without their running back Jonathan Stewart, but were picked up by Fozzy Whittaker on the ground.  Despite the 27 points allowed, I like the Panthers chances of stopping Sam Bradford and the new Vikings weapon and league receiving yards leader Stefon Diggs. CAROLINA WINS
  • Broncos @ Bengals: Andy Dalton has gotten off to a nice start this season, leading the league with 732 passing yards, so here’s a good test for the Broncos league leading defense.  CJ Anderson is having a good start to the season, and we’ve seen the Bengals give up the most rushing yards per game to start the season, so he should be able to help eat a lot of clock for Denver. DENVER WINS
  • Cardinals @ Bills: Arizona rebounded from a tough week 1 loss by handily beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The Cardinals led the league in total offense, while the Bills dropped to 0-2 despite putting up 31 points of their own in week 2. Buffalo has let their offensive coordinator go, so they really need this game.  Too bad I don’t think they’ll get it.  Look for a big game from running back Daniel Johnson. ARIZONA WINS
  • Raiders @ Titans: Oakland has not been able to stop anyone through two weeks, something I wasn’t expecting, allowing 70 points so far.  Tennessee has actually done a very nice job on defense.  Both teams are 1-1 heading into this game, but I still like the Raiders better.  The Titans offense hasn’t shown the big play ability the Raiders have, so Oakland should be able to hold them down better than they did with New Orleans and Atlanta. OAKLAND WINS

Sunday 4/425pm Games

  • Rams @ Buccaneers: LA’s defense showed up in week 2, Tampa’s did not.  The difference between these two teams is the offense.  While the Bucs went from scoring 4 TDs to 1, I feel more confident about their offense than the Rams, who have scored just 9 points in two games.  The best chance the Rams have is if their defense can do what it did a week ago, and good game out of Todd Gurley. That being said, I’ll take the home team in this one. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • 49ers @ Seahawks: This is a big (albeit early) NFC West battle between two 1-1 teams.  San Francisco followed up a surprise week 1 win with a defensive breakdown against Carolina.  Seattle had one of their worst offensive games in this recent stretch of Superbowl quality teams, scoring just a field goal against the L.A. Rams. I can’t see the Seahawks being held down again, especially by the Niners.  Russell Wilson should be able to dominate in this one. SEATTLE WINS
  • Steelers @ Eagles:  I never thought this would be a game where both teams have a chance to move to 3-0, but here we are.  DeAngelo Williams has been huge for Pittsbrgh in the abscense of Le’Veon Bell, who is out one more week due to suspension. Philadelphia has gotten about as good as you can ever hope to from a rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz, who hasn’t turned the ball over yet. It should be a good game, but I will go with the experience in this one. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Jets @ Chiefs: Two teams I picked to make the playoffs in the AFC face off in Kansas City this weekend.  New York picked up their first win last week, thanks to the offense.  Off-season acquisition Matt Forte finished with 100 yards rushing, and three rushing touchdowns. Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall both finished with 100 receiving yards as well.  The Jets defense wasn’t as impressive as it was week 1.  The Chiefs hope that’s the case again this week, as they couldn’t get much of anything started against Houston. A lot went right for New York last week, and I can’t see them doing quite that well against Kansas City’s defense as they did against Buffalo.  If this were a home game for the Jets I might choose differently, but it’s a home game for the Chiefs, so I’ll go with them this week.  KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Chargers @ Colts: San Diego is 2-0, Indianapolis is 0-2.  I really thought that the Colts would be able to do better than they have on defense, but they haven’t. San Diego has looked very good on offense to start this season, Indy has been very up and down. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Bears @ Cowboys: Chicago is 0-2 despite holding early leads in both week 1 and week 2.  And now they’ll be without starting quarterback Jay Cutler due to a thumb injury.   Their best hope to beat the Cowboys is to continue limiting the passing game, as the Bears rank 4th in the NFL allowing 224 yards a game.   As for Dallas, they picked up their first win thanks to another clean day from Dak Prescott and a big night on the ground. The Boys were already a better team than the Bears before the Cutler injury, so give me Dallas at home to move to 2-1. DALLAS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Falcons @ Saints: Atlanta picked up their first win against an impressive Raiders team in week 2, while New Orleans dropped to 0-2 after a game winning field goal by the Giants.  Atlanta hasn’t had any problems scoring this season, but their defense has struggled at times.  New Orleans’ defense was much better in week 2, forcing 3 turnovers, but it wasn’t enough.  I picked the Saints to make the playoffs, so this is a huge game for them.  If they want to get their first win, they have to figure out how to run the ball.  The Falcons tend to be very inconsistent, so give me New Orleans at home in a shootout. NEW ORLEANS WINS

NFL: Power Rankings Heading Down the Home Stretch

And then there was one.  Carolina stands alone as the league’s lone remaining undefeated team after starting the week with a Thanksgiving Day win.  Now that the calendar has flipped to December, the race for the postseason heats up.  Here is my look at the 10 best teams, and who the three worst teams are, as we march towards Superbowl 50.

Top 10 Teams Through Week 12

  1. Carolina Panthers (11-0): I would put them at the top even if New England had remained undefeated. Why? Because Carolina has gotten better every week dating back to late last season.  Early in the season they struggled on offense, but their defense has been on point all year, currently ranked second overall just behind the Broncos. Add a top five run game, an extremely confident QB and a balanced passing attack, and you’ve got the clear favorite to come out of the NFC right now.  There are more experienced teams vying to bring them down, but it’ll be hard to do it before the second round, as they will end the season with one of the two byes.
  2. New England Patriots (10-1):  They’ve been close to a loss for a few weeks, and it took overtime for them to finally get one.  But to write them off as some have after their loss to Denver on Sunday night is ridiculous.  They have suffered a lot of injuries on offense, which is why they have been on a bit of a “slide” of late.  But they still have their most important offense weapon in Tom Brady healthy, and Rob Gronkowski’s injury wasn’t as bad as previously thought.  They could lose a bye with the recent issues, but I wouldn’t put it past them to rally and hold on even with the injuries.  And with a huge lead in the AFC East, something catastrophic would have to happen for them not to make the playoffs. They were knocked down in week 12, but they are still the best team in the AFC until they get knocked out.
  3. Denver Broncos (9-2): It remains to be seen if Peyton Manning has been “Wally Pipped” by Brock Osweiler, but what I do know, is the Broncos offense is finally on par with the defense this season.  Sure the run game has picked up, but it doesn’t hurt when the QB isn’t turning the ball over as much as Manning was before he got hurt.  Not only was taking down the undefeated Patriots great for this team’s morale, it also means they still have a shot at the number 1 seed in the AFC.  They found a way to go 8-0 with a less than spectacular QB performance in the first half.  With a younger, hungry QB, this team could go very, very far this season.  
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (9-2): A week 12 loss helped turn the tide after a two-game skid ended their run at perfection.  Other than on loss which was due to poor offense, the other poor defense, Cincinnati has been consistently great on both sides of the ball.  They’ve shown the ability to absolutely dominate, and win the close games.  They have a shot a bye, with a game against their biggest competition, Denver, ahead of them.  Andy Dalton  is having the best season of his young career, something he and the organization need to continue through the playoffs after so many first round exits.  Despite being ranked ninth, the run game has been up and down, and they need it to be more consistent.  But they’ve shown they can play with anyone, and look primed to get the second round monkey off their back if they continue doing what they’ve been doing, and stay healthy and hungry.
  5. Arizona Cardinals (9-2): It’s amazing what this team has been the past two seasons with a healthy Carson Palmer.  15-2 as the Cardinals starter, with a TD-INT ratio of 38-12, the 13-year veteran is doing a great job leading this team. Larry Fitzgerald is having a renaissance.  Their two losses were the only two games where they really let down their guard and played down to their opponents, showing when on point, they can be and have beaten everybody.  Arizona boasts the top ranked total offense and fifth defense in the league, proving they are a legit title contender if they can stay healthy.
  6. Minnesota Vikings (8-3): It’s amazing the difference Adrian Peterson has made on this team.  A rejuvenated rushing attack has lessened the pressure on second year QB Teddy Bridgewater, who really hasn’t been impressive at all this season.  This team truly lives by the ground and pound mentality, relying heavily on it’s top ranked rushing offense, and it’s top 10 defense.  They’re better stopping the pass, which is key in the North with the likes of Matt Stafford and Aaron Rodgers.  They’re a game up in the division while currently holding a better division record than Green Bay.  Their last four games are tough, with two against the best of the NFC West, and a week 17 match-up that could determine the division against the Packers.  But if the run game can continue eating up clock, and Bridgewater can find a way to be even a bit better than mediocre, they are in the drivers seat in the North.
  7. Green Bay Packers (7-4): Despite their poor play of late, this team is still a force to be reckoned with.  A bright spot in their Thanksgiving Day loss was the return of Eddie Lacy, who had been a disappointment this season.  Aaron Rodgers found success early on without his favorite target in Jordy Nelson, throwing to the likes of James Jones.  But for some reason, things haven’t clicked on offense for late.  The Packers QB isn’t turning the ball over, but his completion percentage is down and with the absence of a consistent run game, the offense has become one dimensional.  They know how to win, but one big worry for this team right now is Rodgers health.  He said he lost feeling in his fingers against Chicago, so you have to wonder how that will manifest itself going forward.
  8. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5): They’ve won five straight, and are doing exactly what I said they needed to do when I looked ahead to the second half:

    Five of their final eight are against below .500 teams, and the three that aren’t, are the teams ahead of them in the West.  They can move up quickly if Alex Smith can continue to spread the wealth in the pass game and avoid the late turnovers that have plagued him.

    Smith hasn’t been reckless with the football and the team is scoring points in a major way.  When they started 1-5, the most points they’d managed to score were 28 against Green Bay, but they then allowed 38.  During their five-game winning streak, Kansas City has score no fewer than 23 points, while allowing a total of 61 points.  And with the schedule still in their favor down the stretch, and a struggling AFC, this team is primed for a wildcard spot.

  9. Seattle Seahawks (6-5): They’re finally starting to look like the back-to-back NFC Champs that they are.  Russell Wilson had one of his best performances in week 11, throwing for five touchdowns. The defense still wasn’t what it’s been, but if the offense can look even close to what it did last week for the stretch run, they’ll make it to the playoffs in this season’s NFC.  At this point, they’re only competing with two teams for the wild card (Atlanta and Green Bay).
  10. Houston Texans (6-5):  After making the Dolphins look like an offensive juggernaut in week seven, the defense has gotten back on track in a big way.  This team was built around their defense and run game, but the loss of Arian Foster meant the passing game needed to step up.  And after many changes at quarterback, Brian Hoyer has done enough to lock up the job for now.  Four straight wins have put them in a position not only to make the playoffs, but to win the AFC South.  And we’ve seen what JJ Watt can do in the playoffs, so the AFC should be nervous.

Three Fighting for Number 1

30. Tennessee Titans (2-9)

31. San Francisco 49ers (3-8)

32. Cleveland Browns (2-8)

 

NFL: Week 2 Recap and Week 3 Picks

It’s pretty amazing how many teams most thought would be good this season are 0-2.

Most Impressive Teams From Week 2

  1. New England Patriots (2-0)– The Tom Brady revenge tour raged through Buffalo this weekend and put up three touchdowns and 466 yards passing on the Buffalo defense.  Rob Gronkowski went over 100 yards, Julian Edelman caught two TDs and nine different Patriots caught passes.  The defense let up late, allowing 19 points in the fourth to the Bills to make the final score close, but it really wasn’t.
  2. Arizona Cardinals (2-0) –Carson Palmer is healthy and it means this team is a force to be reckoned with in a division that has the NFC Champs bringing up the rear at 0-2. Palmer was efficient throwing 4 touchdowns on just 185 yards passing.  The Cards got help from their defense, and special teams with a team record 108-yard kickoff return.  Not to mention that Larry Fitzgerald had one of the best games of his career, catching 3 scores after going nine straight (including the playoffs) without a single one.
  3. Green Bay Packers (2-0) –Make it nine straight regular season home wins for the Packers who got revenge for their NFC Championship loss to the Seahawks. Both defenses played well, but the big play came by Green Bay in the fourth, an interception of Russell Wilson as the Pack went to score 11 to take the lead and the game.  The fact that Green Bay could come out on top after losing both Eddie Lacy and Devonte Adams early to injury shows how deep this team is.

Most Disappointing Teams From Week 2

  1. New York Giants (0-2)– The New York Giants are now 0-2… against the New York Giants. They got Odell Beckham Jr and Shane Vereen going, Eli Manning hasn’t thrown a pick and the defense shutdown Matt Ryan for most of the game.  But it hasn’t mattered. In both games, they played the 55 minutes of football that should have them 2-0 and atop the NFC East. Instead, they’ve shot themselves in the foot to end two games with poor time management and poor play calling.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (0-2) –For just the second time in his young career, Andrew Luck has lost two straight games.  The fourth year QB threw 3 interceptions for the first time in nearly two years, and added a fumble to his bad night.  The defense hasn’t been terrible, but they haven’t been able to make up for the bad offense.
  3. Detroit Lions (0-2) – The defense hasn’t been a strengthlike it’s been in the past. Matthew Stafford has been erratic.  But the most distressing part has the running game. They managed just 38 yards on the ground against the Vikings a week after surrendering 230 yards in week 1.  When Matt Stafford leads you in rushing, that’s a problem. When he has most yards than four other guys combined, that’s a serious problem.

Most Surprising Performances from Week 2

  1. Carolina Panthers (2-0) – I honestly don’t know how they’re doing it.  Sure the defense is good, but offensively they haven’t done anything spectacular.  Cam Newton looks better than last season, and has gotten it done on the ground, but their actual backs haven’t done much. Their big play threat in Kelvin Benjamin is down for the season, leaving Newton under 200 yards passing.  But they’re doing enough and sit tied atop the division.
  2. Oakland Raiders (1-1) – One week after a blowout loss to Cincinnati, they went toe-to-toe offensively with the Ravens and came out on top. David Carr threw for a career high 351 yards, and put a late turnover behind him quickly to throw the game winner with 26 seconds to go.  He’s got two big weapons in rookie Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree to throw to, something Oakland has been missing for years.
  3. New York Jets (2-0) –I knew they’d be good this season.  But I don’t even think they’ve played their best football and here they are at 2-0 coming off a nice win in Indianapolis.  Ryan Fitzpatrick has looked great and forged a quick connection with Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall.  Chris Ivory got banged up in practice but has looked good so far.  And the defense after being torched at times in week 1, specifically in the secondary, generated a great pass rush in week 2, and has an incredible 10 takeaways already.

Now we can get to my picks for week 3.  I went just 5-11 to bring my season total to 15-17, so clearly I need a rebound.

Thursday Night Football

  • Redskins @ Giants: Washington’s defense has been one of the biggest surprises this season.  New York’s defense is stopping the run, but allowing QBs to have a field day.  The Giants offense looked a lot better in week 2, but they beat themselves late again. I should probably stop picking New York, but they handle the Skins well and without their late-game mistakes, I still think they’ve looked like the best team in the division.  NEW YORK WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Falcons @ Cowboys: Both teams enter 2-0 but with varying levels of health concerns.  Dallas has been hit at QB with Tony Romo’s fractured clavicle, wide receiver with Dez Bryant’s broken foot and Jason Witten’s knee.  Atlanta will be without rookie running back Tevin Coleman who injured his rib in their week 2 win.  The Cowboys traded for guys to replace their injured stars, including a pick for Matt Cassel, who is a very capable starter.  But Matt Ryan has a very healthy and electric Julio Jones paired with Roddy White and I think he’ll be able to out-pass anything the Boys throw out there. ATLANTA WINS
  • Colts @ Titans: Tennessee went from great to average in a weeks’ time, something to expect with a rookie QB.  I’ve already gone over Indy’s problems so I won’t here.  But the Jets showed you can do damage to the Colts secondary, so expect Marcus Mariota to throw early and often this week.  However, I don’t think it will be enough.  Andrew Luck will figure out how to play past his turnovers and explode in week 3 and get win number 1. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Raiders @ Browns: Johnny Manziel was supposed to get another start after picking up his first win a week ago. Not so fast. Josh McCowan will be back after missing week 2 with injury. I don’t like the move, but I guess Cleveland is operating under the “you don’t lose your job because of injury idea.”  As for Oakland, no one thought they’d be good this year, and yet they’ve done some good things early on.  So who moves to a surprising 2-1? Give me the Raiders in a close one on the road.  OAKLAND WINS
  • Bengals @ Ravens: Andy Dalton is off to one of the best starts of his career, the run game is producing and the defense is doing what it needs to do, holding opponents to 16 points a game. Now they face a hungry 0-2 Ravens team in an AFC North showdown.  Baltimore’s defense has allowed that has allowed the seventh most points per game in the first two weeks.  I thought Baltimore would be in contention for a playoff spot against this season, and while I know they can win this game and avoid an 0-3 start, I like the Bengals too much right nowCINCINNATI WINS
  • Jaguars @ Patriots: The Jacksonville Defense has been solid through two weeks of play, but they’re going to need to get to Tom Brady early and often if they want to unseat the champs.  Blake Bortles looked better in week 2 than week 1, but he’s still got a lot of work to do.  New England is just on another level and at home.  They’ll get to 3-0 rather easily. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Saints @ Panthers: Already at 0-2, the Saints are now without Drew Brees.  Carolina is seeing a better Cam Newton through two weeks than they saw all of last season.  New Orleans defense has been atrocious, the Panthers pretty good.  If all holds true, we’ve got another easy win for a soon-to-be 3-0 squadCAROLINA WINS
  • Eagles @ Jets: DeMarco Murray has been very, very bad.  Sam Bradford has been very bad. The Eagles special teams hasn’t been what it was, nor has the defense.  New York has been good in every phase of the game, but it’s been their defense that has stood out above all. NEW YORK WINS
  • Buccaneers @ Texans: Bryan Hoyer did a better job than Ryan Mallett, but it wasn’t enough.  Houston’s running game has been non-existent without Arian Foster.  The defense isn’t what they can and have been in the past.  Jameis Winston bounced back from a rough NFL debut to show flashes. If the Texans get some help on the ground, I like the Texans at home to pick up their first win. HOUSTON WINS
  • Chargers @ Vikings: Philip Rivers has been on point this season, completing 81 percent of his passes through two games.  But turnovers hurt the Chargers chances at a 2-0 start a week ago.  As for the Vikings, Adrian Peterson got back to his old self, racking up nearly 200 total yards to help get his team to 1-1. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Steelers @ Rams: The Steelers have looked good on offense through two weeks, and that was without Le’Veon Bell. Now with the AFC’s leading rusher from a year ago back, look out.  St. Louis’s defense hasn’t been as good as I thought it would be, and the offense has had one great game, and one they’d like to forget about.  So give me the more experienced Pittsburgh team on the road. PITTSBURGH WINS 

Sunday 4/425 PM Games

  • 49ers @ Cardinals: After a big first week, the Niners looked overwhelmed by the Steelers in week 2, particularly on defense, which is normally a strong suit.  And now they have to contend with a hot Cardinals team on the road.  Arizona is clicking on all cylinders, picking up where they left off last season with Carson Palmer.  They might not give up 48 again, but San Francisco is going to have a tough time stopping the Cardinals. ARIZONA WINS
  • Bills @ Dolphins: Both of these teams looked great in week 1, and not so great in week 2. Buffalo is waiting for LeSean McCoy to look more like the guy Philadelphia ran out of the backfield last season.  The Dolphins shot themselves in the foot with 13 flags for 113 penalty yards including a personal foul that set up the Jags game winning field-goal.  The inconsistent showings of the Bills defense through two weeks makes it hard to gauge them.  For that I’m taking the home team to improve to 2-1. MIAMI WINS
  • Bears @ Seahawks: One of these teams will be 0-3 (barring a tie) when the clock hits zero.  And it’s easily going to be Chicago. While the Hawks haven’t been as good as they’ve been the past two years, they have been in both games and have played well enough to win.  The Bears have looked awful and are now without Jay Cutler, though many are probably okay with that. SEATTLE WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Broncos @ Lions:  Peyton Manning woke up in week 2 but it was the Chiefs mistakes and Broncos defense that won the game in the end.  Detroit is a surprising 0-2, but Matt Stafford always plays better at home than on the road.  Denver is lucky to be 2-0, and I think that luck runs out this week.  Look for the run game to get going for Detroit. DETROIT WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Chiefs @ Packers: Kansas City made some poor choices to end week 2.  But they have to be happy with what they’ve seen from their skill position guys, now they just have to hope Jamaal Charles holds onto the football. Green Bay overcame injuries to key players in week 2 to get revenge on the Seahawks, thanks in large part to their defense.  Both teams have impressed, but give me another home win for Aaron Rodgers and company this week.  GREEN BAY WINS

NFL: Week 15 Picks

One week closer to the playoffs, and we still don’t have any spots clinched! Which means it’s unofficially the start of the playoffs, and is a testament to parody in the game today, with how even teams are.  Of course there are standouts, with two teams in the NFC (Packers, Cardinals) and two teams in the AFC (Patriots, Broncos) who all have 10 wins apiece.  Add to that 5 other squads with 9 and 3 others with 8, and we have the makings of a very entertaining final 3 weeks of the regular season.

One of my best weeks picking in week 14, going 13-3 to bring my season total up to 131-76. Take a look at my week 15 predictions, and tell me where I am wrong and why I am right!

But first, answer the polls on who you think finish with the top seed in each conference!

Thursday Night Football

  • Cardinals @ Rams: St. Louis has a chance to play spoiler, and with the ins they have on their resume this season, they are very capable of doing so.  Not only that, with the inconsistency of the 49ers, the Rams have a chance to not finish last in the powerhouse West, which would be huge for a young team.  As for Arizona, this is a must win game.  A loss and Seahawks win would mean a tie atop the division with a week 16 matchup in Seattle awaiting the.  The Cardinals have already lost to the champs, so a loss here and a loss next week could mean no playoffs at all, despite an early season head start that had them looking like a shoo in for a top 2 seed.  After a couple rocky games after losing Carson Palmer, the Cardinals got back on track last week, and I think they do secure the win to keep a hold of the West before heading into 12th man territory. ARIZONA WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Steelers @ Falcons: It’s a game of teams in very different divisions.  Pittsburgh is in the most competitive division in the league, while Atlanta is in the only division where no team will finish above .500.   The Falcon’s offense isn’t the problem, which we saw in the 2nd half on Monday night against the Packers, it’s defense is.  The Steelers have shown flashes of dominance on offense, but are pretty balanced and can run you out of the stadium with Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. I think the consistency on both side of the football, and ability to control the time of possession will get the Steelers the crucial road win to keep the AFC North that much more up for grabs in the final 2 weeks of the season. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Redskins @ Giants: Washington is terrible, while New York is less so.  The Giants snapped their 7-game slide with a dominating performance against Tennessee on the road.  The Redskins losing skid grew to 5, despite benching RGIII.  While both teams would benefit from losing out at this point, barring a tie, someone has to win, and I think the Giants at home can have another week 14 type performance to pick up their 5th win of the season. NEW YORK WINS
  • Dolphins @ Patriots: Without a win in New England, the Dolphins are out of the playoff picture.  Too many teams already have 8 wins to put the math in their favor.  Miami saw a lot of good things from their QB Ryan Tannehill to make them think next year is the year to make a run, but I think they’ve run out of steam.  The Patriots at home are always tough, but it’s December and it’s Tom Brady.  So give me the home team to get win number 11 and stay in the conversation for a 1st round bye and home-field throughout. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Raiders @ Chiefs: Oakland has two wins… I know I’m shocked too.  They upset the 49ers a week ago for that 2nd win, but I don’t see them getting their 3rd win this week. Maybe the Chiefs will finally throw a TD to a wide-receiver this week.  I won’t hold my breath. But I do think they will get  the win, and I expect another nice day for Jamaal Charles. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Texans @ Colts: The AFC South was a two team race from week 1, and it comes down to this game in Indianapolis.  A Colts win gives them their 2nd straight division crown.  A Texans win keeps the crack in the door open for another week.  Andrew Luck wasn’t  great in their win over the Browns last week, and face another tough defensive test in the one and only JJ Watt.  I love Luck and the Colts as a whole, so give me the home team to lock up their playoff spot this week. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Bengals @ Browns: It’s officially time for Johnny Football in Cleveland.  Brian Hoyer has been benched for this pivotal game for the Browns, who must beat the Bengals to have a shot at the playoffs.  It’s been a great season for Cleveland no matter what, but a loss would almost guarantee no postseason.  As for the Bengals, they laid an egg a week ago, giving everyone else a shot at overtaking them in the AFC North.  But they hold the edge, and seem to follow up bad losses with wins, so I think they overcome the QB controversy on the road. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Jaguars @ Ravens: Jacksonville has quite the defense to grow with next season.  But they are still a young and growing team.  Baltimore has been in this position before, in a playoff push.  They’ve had some good stretches, that have been halted by bad losses.  I think they continue to keep their postseason hopes alive at home.  Look for a big game from Joe Flacco. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Packers @ Bills: Let’s be honest, the Packers are the best team in the NFL right now.  Sure they aren’t as dominant on the road as they are at home, but they’re still pretty darn good away from Lambeau.  And playing in cold weather of Buffalo will be almost like being home, so I expect good things for Green Bay this week.  As I’ve said all season, the Bills have been very impressive, and have kept themselves in the playoff conversation all season.  But I think that comes to an end here.  Aaron Rodgers is just too good. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Buccaneers @ Panthers: Cam Newton is OUT after suffering back fractures (similar to Tony Romo) in his car accident earlier in the week. So Derek Anderson gets the start.  So that means an easier time for the Bucs, but the Panthers are still better than Tampa, even in a down year for them.  They broke out a week ago thanks to a big performance from the usually quiet Jonathan Stewart.  So look for the running game to be big and the defense to be brought to life at home. CAROLINA WINS

Sunday 4/4:25PM Games

  • Jets @ Titans: Neither of these teams want to win this week, let’s be honest.  They’re two of the teams in the running for the number 1 draft pick.  But someone is going to win, and I think it’s going to be the Jets.  The run game has a chance to do damage, and the Titans have no real threats on offense to contest with time of possession battle New York should win. NEW YORK WINS
  • Broncos @ Chargers: This is a better game than I thought it would be while the Chargers were losing 3 straight including 2 in the division.  One of those losses came the Broncos, who were unable to runaway with the AFC West, though it’s just a formality at this point.  CJ Anderson is taking the Broncos to another level and it’s made Denver that much more dangerous.  A win locks up the division, and you know Peyton Manning and company want that as soon as possible. DENVER WINS
  • Vikings @ Lions: Calvin Johnson is heating up at the right time, and boy did the Lions need it. They’d been struggling offensively, letting the Packers take control of the division.  Minnesota has been up and down all year, but must be commended for playing .500 football without their starting QB and starting running back all season.  That being said, I think Detroit keeps their wild card hopes alive with a home victory over their NFC North foes.  DETROIT WINS
  • 49ers @ Seahawks: The loser of this match-up is out of the running for the NFC West crown.  If the Niners lose, they’d also be in jeopardy of missing out on the playoffs all together. The Legion of Boom is back in full force and after San Francisco was shutdown by the lowly Raiders a week ago, there’s little faith that they can go into Seattle and outscore the defending Superbowl champions. SEATTLE WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Cowboys @ Eagles: How big is this game?  Well, both teams enter action with identical 9-4 records, with Philly just ahead of Dallas in the NFC East by virtue of their Thanksgiving day beat down of the Cowboys.  Philly all but ensures a second straight division crown with a victory, while big D would be in a tough battle for a wild card spot.  We know a good team is going to be left out of the NFC playoffs because of the NFC South winner getting a spot with a .500 or lower record.  The loser of this game could be that team that is left out if push comes to shove.  If Philly can limit the turnovers, I think they take this game at home.   PHILADELPHIA WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Saints @ Bears: I liked both of these teams heading into the season, but both have been huge disappointments.  Drew Brees just doesn’t look like the guy of the past few, Jimmy Graham has been shut down, and with no run game, they’ve been very one dimensional.  Jay Cutler’s big off-season deal looks like a bigger mistake than I thought it was when it happened.  He’s got two of the best receivers in the game, but hasn’t used them efficiently all season.  And neither team’s defense is anything to write home about. So who wins?  New Orleans still has a shot at the playoffs, which is is just disgusting.  The bears haven’t been great at home.  So despite the strange showing by the Saints this season, I think they see a chance with Carolina losing Cam Newton, and knowing that the Falcons tend to shoot themselves in the foot, that this division is still very much up for grabs.  Expect Brees to play like that this week.  NEW ORLEANS WINS

NFL: Halfway to the Finish Line… Who are the pretenders, and who are the contenders?

I cannot believe we are here already. 9 weeks down. The playoff picture is starting to take shape.

So who has themselves in prime position, who has work to do and who is on the clock?  Here is a breakdown by division of how all 32 teams look midway through the season.

AFC EAST (Remember when we all thought Tom Brady was done?)

  1. New England Patriots (7-2): Since being blown out in week 4, the Pats have won 5 straight, 4 of those by double digits.  They made easy work of the of 3 teams that could be in the playoffs, including a 22-point victory over the Broncos last week.  Tom Brady is top 5 in passing yards in a season where Rob Gronkowski came in off injury and Julian Edelman was leading the team in receiving yards early.   It took a couple weeks for them to figure things out, and now here they are, atop the AFC once again.  It’s almost like in the NBA when everyone calls out the Spurs for being too old, and they go and win the championship.  Maybe we should stop underestimating Brady and Belichick?
  2. Buffalo Bills (5-3): They’ve lost their top running back, their 2nd back is banged up and yet here they are, fighting for a wild card spot.  A big reason why is their defense.  They’re 6th in points per game in the league and are a +7 in turnover differential.  Add to that a steady progression from rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins to a big play threat, the ability to close out games and decent production from QBs EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton (yes that Kyle Orton).  If this team wants to stay in the conversation, they have to continue their strong defensive presence and get Fred Jackson back.
  3. Miami Dolphins (5-3): Ryan Tannehill has taken a step.  It’s in the right direction, but I’m not ready to say it’s a step that puts him in the next tier of quarterbacks step yet.  His decision making has gotten much better, as has his accuracy, all things you want to see as your franchise starter gets older.  Losing Knowshon Moreno was big, but Lamar Miller has done a good job picking up the slack.  They find ways to win, and just demolished the once high flying Chargers to the tune of 37-0.  Like the Bills, their defense is where they make money, and of the two teams, I think they have a better shot at a wild card spot coming off an 8-8 record a year ago.  They’re no worse than a season ago.
  4. New York Jets (1-8): 8 straight losses with no hope on the horizon.  Geno Smith is on the bench. Eric Decker hasn’t been the addition they hoped for.  Their defense has been awful and the run game has been abandoned.  Things are so bad for the Jets that fan put their money together to buy a “Fire Idzik” billboard (their GM).  Could Rex Ryan be out at the end of the season?  Time will tell, but they’re fighting hard for a very high draft pick, and not the playoffs like I thought they would be this season.

AFC NORTH (Who would’ve thought all these teams would be above .500?)

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1): They’ve been inconsistent since coming out of their week 4 by with a record of 3-0.  Inconsistency is bad in any sport, but it’s very bad for Cincy this year, as they can’t afford a slip in the only top-to-bottom over .500 division in football.  Andy Dalton has shown flashes of deserving the big 6-year $115 million contract he got in the off-season.  But again, inconsistency is an issue.  Hopefully AJ Green is over his injury issues, because everyone knows how lethal he is in the passing game, and putting a confident Mohammad Sanu, who stepped up for Green in his absence, next to him is huge.
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3): 12 TDs in two games. Historic numbers.  That’s what Ben Roethlisberger and company have put up of late to get back into the division champion conversation.  Pittsburgh is still very inconsistent.  They started out 3-3, and despite their 3 game win streak, the Steelers defense is nowhere near the “steal curtain” of old. It’s more like a bead curtain.  It’s easy to outscore your opponents, until it’s not.  Can they keep it up?  Yes.  Will they?  Who knows.
  3. Cleveland Browns (5-3): So… we all saw this coming right?  The Browns are 2 games over .500 despite not getting much from Ben Tate on the ground, an oft injured Jordan Cameron and a QB controversy heading into the season.  They’ve been impressive, finding ways to win games late that they would’ve lost in years past.  Brian Hoyer has gotten better at late game decision making and has his team looking at winning it’s most games in a while.
  4. Baltimore Ravens (5-4): After looking like they’d turned a corner, Baltimore has lost two straight in the division, finding themselves momentarily in the basement.  The positive for this team?  They have games left in the division and it’s close, so it won’t take long to jump back into the top.  But they can’t be so inconsistent on defense.  The offense without Ray Rice hasn’t really skipped a beat, so if they can get some more stops, they will be in it til the end.

AFC SOUTH (Indianapolis is starting to pull away)

  1. Indianapolis Colts (6-3): After an 0-2 start, the Colts have righted the ship in a huge way.  Andrew Luck leads the league in passing yards, with a healthy 3,000 plus already! So you wouldn’t be surprised to know they have the best total offense because of it,which has helped cover up their middle of the pack total team defense.  Those numbers are a bit skewed at 18 after allowing over 600 total yards to Pittsburgh in week 8, but it is what it is.  They already beat Houston once, so in affect have a 3 game lead, and with how they’re playing, I think they’re easily on their way to another division crown.
  2. Houston Texans (4-5):  The good news?  JJ Watt is a beast and they’ve already doubled their win total from a year ago.  The bad news. they are in the same division as the Colts, and Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the greatest replacement for Matt Schaub, which has led to him being benched in favor of Ryan Mallett.  But they are still in the conversation without any real production out of number 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney, so there is room for improvement.  Add better days from offensive weapons Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, and I see them hovering around .500 the rest of the way.
  3. Tennessee Titans (2-6): They’re in the bottom third of the league on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football. So frankly, I don’t know how they have two wins (one of which came against Jacksonville).  Two of their losses were by a combined 3 points, which shows a lack of late game execution, which reeks of bad coaching and bad personnel.  Delanie Walker might be the lone guy that’s having a representative season for Tennessee.  And after a 7-9 season a year ago, there was a place for improvement, and they haven’t and look like they won’t even get back to a similar record this year.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8): They’re not good, but I have to give the Jags some credit.  They aren’t rolling over on a weekly basis.  They took down the Browns for their first win in wee 7. Things weren’t made easy for the Bengals and Dolphins following that win.  Denard Robinson has proven to be a very good starting running back and Blake Bortles has shown some glimpses as the 4th pick in the 2014 draft.  So while the record will again put them in the running for a top pick, there are at least signs of talent at skill positions in Jacksonville.

AFC WEST (Denver might start to run away with this one)

  1. Denver Broncos (6-2): Peyton Manning is still really good, but even he couldn’t lead his team past the red hot Patriots.  But at 6-2, they’re still in prime position to make a deep playoff run despite a very difficult schedule.  The difference between last year’s Broncos and this year’s… the defense.  A bad showing against New England not withstanding, off-season acquisitions are doing big things for this team on both sides of the football.  This offense is so good, Wes Welker is now the 4th option. Think about that.  I’m not worried about this team, and even though they haven’t run away with the division, the Chargers have dropped and they can do no worse than tying the season series with both them and the Chiefs.
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-3): The defense hasn’t allowed more than 26 points in a game, and that came week 1.  Jamal Charles continues to have the ability to break out on any day.  Alex Smith isn’t lighting up the stat sheet, but he’s done enough to keep them in the conversation in the division.  This team was never going to repeat the 9-0 start from a year ago, but they’ve responded from a slow start, and can still make a play at a wild card spot, if not the division.
  3. San Diego Chargers (5-4): This team was 5-1 and looked like a top 2, top 3 team in the league.  Now they’re on a 3-game slid that’s seen them score 3 TDs in the past 8 quarters of football.  The defense can’t live up to that, but it’s hard to outscore 35-plus point efforts as well.  So if this team wants to get back in the conversation, both sides of the football need to improve and fast.
  4. Oakland Raiders (0-8): They may never win again.  This team has yet to show me any reason to ever pick them.  Charles Woodson called it early, and it never sparked a fire.  They’re the worst team in the league, but could always fall into a win, and could lose that title to a Jets or Jaguars team.  But I doubt that happens.

NFC EAST (Is this division really as “strong” as the records suggest?)

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (6-2): They’re well on their way to a possible 2nd straight division crown.  But a couple of big injuries in week 9 could derail their Superbowl aspirations.  Nick Foles is set to be out 6-8 weeks with a broken collarbone, while DeMeco Ryans is out for the season with a torn Achilles.  The latter could prove more costly, as Philly at least has a backup QB in Mark Sanchez who has proven he can help lead a team deep into the playoffs.  But if they want to survive the injuries, the run game has to pick up the slack.  So this team will only go as far as LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles can run, in conjunction with Sanchez limiting the mistakes.
  2. Dallas Cowboys (6-3):  Just when you thought this might be their season, Tony Romo goes down.  DeMarco Murray is on a record pace on the round, but with his injury history, how much more can you ask from him?  Brandon Weedon wasn’t horrible with Cleveland, but you’re not going far with him either.  You’ve got to hope you can get Romo back after the bye week in week 12, while hoping teams like the Packers, Panthers, Seahawks or 49ers don’t get hot and steal a wildcard spot.
  3. New York Giants (3-5): The G-men were feeling good about themselves after a 3-game win streak that saw them score 30-plus to get them above the .500 mark at 3-2.  But it’s been downhill from there.  Eli Manning hasn’t thrown an interception since week 4, and has just 5 all season. But the injuries are piling up and Manning has no real deep threat.  They’ve put themselves behind the 8-ball, but with games left with both the Eagles and Cowboys at home, to go with some softer games in the 2nd half, it’ll be tough, but they don’t have any wiggle room if they want to make a real run for the playoffs.
  4. Washington Redskins (3-6): RGIII came back, for better or worse and it didn’t make them better.  The former Rookie of the Year looked slow and out of it in his return, and I didn’t understand bringing him back when they did.  Colt McCoy (yes he still exists) looked pretty good and got them a win against Dallas. I would’ve run him out there again.  They’re the worst team in the division, even with how banged up the Giants are.

NFC NORTH (This was always going to be a fight between Detroit and Green Bay)

  1. Detroit Lions (6-2): They boast the best team defense in football.  You’ve been looking for this team to put all their talent together for a while now, and this seems to be the year, led by the D.  But that being said, their offense has been off lately. Calvin Johnson has missed time, the run game isn’t what you want and they’ve played games using their 4th string tight-end.  But when your defense is top 5 in rushing and passing defense, it tends to hide offensive question marks.  If they can get Megatron healthy, this team is going to be very dangerous in the playoffs.
  2. Green Bay Packers (5-3): They might be in 2nd place, but they’re the best team in this division.  Green Bay got off to a slow start, but while defense has carried the current leader, the Pack is a much more balanced team.  Aaron Rodgers is an MVP candidate again.  And if Eddie Lacy could ever be the consistent threat they need on the ground, I don’t know how you beat this team.
  3. Chicago Bears (3-5): You boast probably the best wide-receiver combination in football to go with a top 5 running back, and yet they find themselves under .500.  The defense, aside from allowing a 51 spot to New England in their last game has been pretty good.  The issue is on offense, where there is questions of a lack of trust between Jay Cutler and his targets of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.  And when there is questioning of each other in the media, it’s hard to recover from.
  4. Minnesota Vikings (3-5): considering they lost their starting QB and their All-pro running back early on, Mike Zimmer has his team competing.  Even with Matt Cassell and Adrian Peterson, I don’t think this team would be much better than 3-5, but they’ve learned that Teddy Bridgewater is a capable starter.  In a tough division like the North, at least they’ve shown they can play with teams outside.  Now they just have to figure out how to make games in the division close.  And with how bad Chicago looks, finishing 3rd is in the realm of possibility, especially with two left against the Bears.

NFC SOUTH (The most disappointing division in football?)

  1. New Orleans Saints (4-4): It’s been a long trek back to .500 for the Saints after an 1-3 start.  Drew Brees’ low is 17 points scored… that on the road against the Cowboys.  So the offense has been pretty good.  But this team is only going to go as far as the defense.  They are very lucky to be in a division having a down year top-to-bottom.  Having a game up on Carolina already for me gives them a clear path to the division crown.
  2. Carolina Panthers (3-5-1): So I think their defense forgot how to play… well defense.  Carolina finds itself top 3 in points allowed and the bottom 3rd of the league in total yards allowed.  Add to that, a banged up Cam Newton, and an offense that finds themselves in similar spots in offense as defense.  All ingredients for a below .500 record.  And nothing I’ve seen of late has me thinking they can rebound in the second half of the season here.
  3. Atlanta Falcons (2-6): Remember when this was a good team?  Yeah, neither do I. A 2-0 start, the Falcons look like the 2013-14 Texans that finished the season on a 14-game skid. You know, minus the loss of a quarterback.  Matt Ryan has been healthy, and has had enough weapons to get some wins here.  The issue is on defense.  Their secondary is basically swiss cheese, and the front 7 isn’t any better.  I do think they’ll find a way to win again this season, but it might not be more than once or twice.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7): Ugliness. I thought they’d be a playoff team.  Nope.  A rotating door at quarterback has shifted back to Josh McCown.  Doug Martin looks like he’s never ran a football.  The defense is atrocious.  Vincent Jackson seems to forget that he’s a load and can out muscle any secondary player.  It’s just bad for the Bucs.

NFC WEST (Arizona far atop the hill, just like we all thought… right?)

  1. Arizona Cardinals (7-1): I give you the best team in the NFC, and it’s not really even close.  They swept the NFC East that currently holds 2 of the 4 best records in the conference.  They survived a couple weeks without their starting quarterback.  Not to mention they’re getting healthy and are consistent on both sides of the ball.  Arizona’s only real issue is that they still have two match-ups with the defending champs, but with how they’ve played, there’s no reason they shouldn’t at least split with them and maintain their led in the division.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (5-3): For a team that entered the year as defending champs, they look nothing like a team capable of a repeat.  Russell Wilson is leading one of the worst passing offenses in football.  Marshawn Lynch is a shell of himself. Percy Harvin, a dynamic offensive weapon, was so distracting they traded him for nothing to the Jets.  And the Legion of Boom has been disappointing to say the least.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (4-5): This team is a mess.  Between off-the-field issues and a lack of a run game to help take pressure of Colin Kaepernick who has his team in the bottom half in passing offense, they find themselves on the outside looking in.  Rumors that Jim Harbaugh is leaving don’t help.  Their only bright spot is their team defense, ranked 2nd in total yards allowed.  What they need is to take advantage of 3 games left with the teams ahead of them, and for Kaepernick to figure some things out offensively, particularly in the red zone.
  4. St. Louis Rams (3-5): I have to give them credit, they don’t quit.  They’ve shown glimpses with getting big leads early over the Cowboys and Seahawks, but then they regress to a 3-5 team by losing both of those leads.  Now they look to play spoiler (as they did against San Fran this week).  Losing your starter just before the season starts is tough.  If they could’ve executed better down the stretch of games, they could be in the conversation for 2nd in this division with a down year from the champs and niners.

So if things continue on the track they are, here are my 12 playoff teams as of now:

NFC

– Arizona, Green Bay, Saints, Philadelphia, Dallas (if Romo comes back quickly) and Detroit

AFC

– New England, Denver, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Miami and Baltimore

NFL: Week 4 Picks

Week 4 and that means we get the first round of teams on their bye.  So we won’t see Cleveland, Cincinnati, Denver, Seattle, St. Louis or the Cardinals, or 4 teams that have gotten off to great starts and two that haven’t.  I hate that byes start so early.  I can’t imagine how these teams feel, knowing they won’t get a break for the rest of the season.

I went 10-6 last week, moving me to 27-21 to start the season. I’ll take it, especially after going 7-9 in week 2.

Thursday Night Football

  • Giants @ Redskins: It’s an NFC East showdown to kick off week 4 of the NFL season.  Both teams enter action at 1-2, but are coming off very different games.  New York played the perfect game against a good defensive team in Houston to pick up their first win, while the Redskins lost in a shootout to the vision leading Philadelphia Eagles.  Sure Washington’s offense looked great, but their defense looked anything but.  The Giants could be 2-1 despite needing some time to adapt to their new offense.  So with that, I’m taking the road team to even up their record. NEW YORK WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Packers @ Bears: I’ve been disappointed with the Packers thus far, while Chicago has been impressive, especially on the offensive side of the ball.  But as someone who picked Green Bay to go far this season, I think they can turn it around, and though playing at Soldier Field is no picnic, I think they find a way and Aaron Rodgers gets back to looking like an MVP. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Bills @ Texans: Buffalo has been better than expected, while Houston looks to rebound off their first loss of the season.  This is going to be a defensive struggle.  Ryan Fitzpatrick looked off a week ago in New York, while EJ Manuel continues to grow.  So who makes the plays in the end?  Give me the home team. HOUSTON WINS
  • Titans @ Colts: Tennessee has been down right awful.  Indy took their early frustrations out on the Jaguars to avoid an 0-3 start.  To me, this one is simple.  Indianapolis is a better team, and they’re at home.  I like the Colts to even up their record at 2-2. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Panthers @ Ravens: The winner of this one moves to 3-1.  With the fire-power in the NFC South, Carolina needs this one more than Baltimore.  The Ravens haven’t had too many issues succeeding without running back Ray Rice. I know Baltimore is the home team in this one, but I like Carolina in this one.  CAROLINA WINS
  • Buccaneers @ Steelers: Remember when everyone though Tampa was going to challenge for a playoff spot this year?  Yeah about that… Steelers get the victory at home. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Dolphins @ Raiders: Charles Woodson said they were bad, and he wasn’t wrong. Oakland has scored the fewest points in the league through the first 3 weeks.  I’d say that doesn’t bode well for them, but the Dolphins have allowed the fourth most points in the league. Despite any possible QB controversy in Miami, they’re still a better team than Oakland.  MIAMI WINS
  • Lions @ Jets: Detroit is clicking on both sides of the football.  New York continues to be inconsistent.  I give the Jets a shot if Geno Smith can limit the mistakes, but against a hungry Lions defense, and possibly being without Eric Decker once more, I can’t see New York getting the win. I didn’t think the Jets would start 1-3, but that’s what I see happening.  DETROIT WINS

Sunday 4:05/4:25PM Games

  • Jaguars @ Chargers: The Blake Bortles era in Jacksonville has begun.  So that’s where Jacksonville is.  As for the Chargers, they look every bit as good as the second half team that forced its way into the playoffs a year ago. SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Eagles @ 49ers: Philly is one of 3-0 teams standing, while the 49ers are a disappointing 1-2.  But the Eagles defense was shown up by Washington a week ago, and they will be without their starting center, which won’t help LeSean McCoy get back on track. Many people felt going into the season that San Fran was poised to make another deep playoff run, and for that to happen, it has to start now.  And I think it does. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Falcons @ Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater gets his first career start.  Atlanta looks to get back to the team they were in week 1 when they beat the Saints.  Matt Ryan has been quite good all season, and I think that gives them the edge. ATLANTA WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Saints @ Cowboys: If you asked me before the season which of these two teams would enter action at 1-2 and which at 2-1, I’d say the road team would be looking for an impressive 3-1 start.  But I’d have been wrong.  Dallas’ defense hasn’t looked as horrible as we all predicted, and both sides of New Orleans game hasn’t been what anyone thought through 3 weeks.  That being said, I just cannot see Drew Brees and company starting out 1-3. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Patriots @ Chiefs: Tom Brady has said the offense needs to step up.  Sure, it hasn’t looked like the high octane offense of the last few seasons, but even so, this team is still 2-1.  Kansas City on the other hand looks nothing like the team that started out 9-0 last season.  The fact that their defense isn’t what it was, coupled with New England being “due,” I’m going with the road team in this one. NEW ENGLAND WINS

There you have it scoreboard watchers.  Here’s to seeing who stays unbeaten, healthy and starts the road to recovery.  Enjoy the games!