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)

 

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NFL: Week 12 Picks

As November comes to an end, the playoff picture is coming more into view.  And that means Thanksgiving Day football! Three games all with playoff implications will get week 12 going.  We still have two undefeated teams in the Panthers and Patriots.  Do I think both stay that way? Keep reading to find out!

I went 7-7 last week, bringing my season pick total to 87-67.  Not bad but let’s do better this week shall we?

Thanksgiving Day Football

  • Eagles @ Lions: Don’t look now by the Lions are playing their best football of the season (not that is saying much for how they played in the first half).  It was never a question of talent with this team.  As for the Eagles, they are reeling.  Detroit is used to playing on Thanksgiving, and with their upswing, I think they’ll walk all over the struggling Eagles. Look for Calvin Johnson, if healthy, to put up big numbers.  DETROIT WINS
  • Panthers @ Cowboys: Carolina enters week 12 as the only undefeated NFC team, while Dallas got their QB and first win in eight games last week, so both teams feel pretty good about themselves heading into a short week.  And while some could argue the Cowboys wouldn’t have lost seven straight with Tony Romo, they are still a work in progress, where as Cam Newton and company are getting better every week.  I think Dallas will give them a run for their money, but I like the Panthers this week on the road. CAROLINA WINS
  • Bears @ Packers: It’s kind of weird for as any times as these division rivals have played each other, it’s never been on Thanksgiving.  Well, that all changes this week.  The Packers are coming off a much-needed victory last week against the Vikings which put them back atop the NFC North (tied with Minnesota but currently holding the tie breaker).  Chicago had looked better with two straight wins before losing a close one to Denver in week 11.  Green Bay can’t take any opponents lightly the way they’ve played for the past month, but at home, I like Aaron Rodgers to light up the Bears defense.  GREEN BAY WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Raiders @ Titans:  The Raiders were starting to figure things out at 4-3, but now they are losers of three-straight and now have two teams ahead of them in the West to go with others in the wildcard race. After clicking offensively for a good part of the first seven weeks, they cant get things going again, and have been inconsistent defensively against teams as hungry as they are.  Tennessee entered week 11 still in the AFC South race despite a 2-7 record.  But they couldn’t muster much against Jacksonville, burying them two games into the cellar.  Oakland is healthy, so there’s no reason they shouldn’t get back on track offensively this week, especially if Derek Carr can find Amari Cooper early an often. OAKLAND WINS
  • Bills @ Chiefs: The Chiefs are on a four-game win streak that has them right in the thick of the wildcard hunt in the AFC.  After weeks one and two when they allowed a combined 74 points, the defense has been great allowing, no more than 18 points in a game. Buffalo enters action with an identical 5-5 record to KC, so this game could make or break a playoff spot.  The offense has picked up for the Chiefs, helping them get back in the race, while the Bills have been extremely up and down this season on both sides of the football. The consistency of Kansas City the past month is why I am taking the home team here in week 12.  KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Buccaneers @ Colts: The Buccaneers are starting to round into form, and find themselves just a game behind the Falcons for second place in the NFC South.  Indianapolis is in better position in the AFC South, tied for first.  Whether the Colts win or lose this season, it tends to be a close game.  The Bucs have followed a similar path, though their first game of the season was a big loss to Tennessee, while they blew out Philly a week ago. So it tends to be harder to predict which Tampa team will show up. That being said, watching both teams of late, I actually trust the Bucs more, simply because I didn’t expect anything from them heading int other season, yet here we are, week 12 and they have the same record as a Colts team i picked to make it out of the AFC this season.  So I’ll roll with the road team here. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • Giants @ Redskins: It’s a tight battle in the NFC East, with all teams still in the hunt.  New York is coming off their bye with a new (old) weapon on offense in Hakeem Nicks who returns in the place of Victor Cruz who is officially out for the season.  Washington is coming off a blowout loss to Carolina, despite a pretty good showing by the offense. NFC East battles are always interesting and usually close, and I expect nothing less in this meeting. But I like the road team in this one to move back above .500 and take control of the division. NEW YORK WINS
  • Saints @ Texans: New Orleans put a few wins together and started to look like the team we’ve seen make regular playoff appearances… offensively that is.  The defense has been horrendous all season, and they were thoroughly embarrassed before their bye week by the Redskins.  As for Houston, they’ve won three straight to take a share of first place in the AFC South, mostly on the strength of their defense.  And that’s why it doesn’t really matter who the QB for the Texans is against New Orleans, they’re going to win this game with JJ Watt and company. HOUSTON WINS
  • Vikings @ Falcons: This should be a good match-up between two teams that would both be playoff participants if the season ended today.  Both are also coming off losses. Atlanta is actually in the midst of a three-game skid, with their lone win coming against Tennessee.  The offense has just not produced the way it needs to, turning the ball over 16 times in their last six games.  Minnesota was flying high before a frustrated Packers team took them done by three scores in week 11. So who wins on Sunday? I like the Vikings despite being on the road.  I see Adrian Peterson having a big day, killing clock and no allowing Matt Ryan to have the time to get back on track. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Rams @ Bengals: Two straight losses in prime time for the once 8-0 Bengals has them in jeopardy of losing a first round bye if Denver continues to win.  For a team that has lost in the first round four straight years, that would be devastating.  Not to mention they’d done well making the plays late in close games early, and now they’ve failed the past two games, including against a lesser Texans team. That being said, they welcome in a struggling Rams team, who has stopped doing what made them successful early in the season.  Sitting pretty at 4-3 and in second in a tough NFC West, St. Louis has lost three straight thanks in large part to a disappearing act on offense.  Two of their four wins came against the Seahawks and Cardinals, so they have the capability to beat anyone on any given Sunday, I just don’t think they get it done here. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Chargers @ Jaguars: So coming into the season, i you asked me which of these teams would be in a position to compete for a playoff spot, I wouldn’t have said Jacksonville.  But the Jaguars are actually in the conversation.  A lot of would have to happen in the final six weeks, but it’s very possible they steal a wild card at the very least. They’ve been able to do enough to compete in most games, winning four of 10, which puts them a game out of a wild card spot.  As for the Chargers, Philip Rivers has had no help from his defense or run game.  Plain and simple.  That being said, I just don’t like the Jaguars enough to say they’ll move over .500.  Give me the upset. SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Dolphins @ Jets:  New York is struggling, Miami is drowning.  This AFC East match-up means a chance to stay in the wild card convo for the Jets, and to get back in it for the Dolphins.  All but two of New York’s games have been decided by a score, while Miami tends to blow out opponents, or get blown out.  So unless Miami comes out guns blazing, I like the Jets to make the play down the stretch, especially if it needs to be a defensive play, to win the game. NEW YORK WINS

Sunday 4/425 PM Games

  • Cardinals @ 49ers:  The Cardinals have been consistent all season, which is why they sit as the two seed in the NFC as we had towards the finish line.  San Francisco is just looking forward to next season.  Colin Kaepernick is done for the season.  Blaine Gabbert isn’t the answer.  All of the 49ers off-season losses hurt and they didn’t do a good enough job answering needs.  They can’t score, having hit the 20-point mark just twice this season.  This should be an easy ninth win for the Cardinals. ARIZONA WINS
  • Steelers @ Seahawks: Pittsburgh could’ve folded up and looked ahead to next season a number of times this season, with injuries and suspensions taking superstars away over and over again.  But they didn’t and would be the fifth seed in the AFC.  Seattle has had its struggles both on offense and defense, but the reigning NFC Champs should not be underestimated despite the lack of boom in the Legion of Boom we are used to.  I like the Steelers offense better than the Seahawks at this point, but I am still taking the home team this week to get back above .500.  Look for Russell Wilson to take it to the ground and make some things happen himself. SEATTLE WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Patriots @ Broncos: Well, it’s not Brady versus Manning on Sunday night as Brock Osweiler got himself another start after Denver’s week 11 win over Chicago.  So right off the bat, the QB battle favors New England, though it would have anyway this year with an unhealthy and ineffective Manning.  This game will come down to Osweiler taking care of the football, and the defense stopping Tom Brady.  The past two weeks for Brady haven’t been great, but the future hall-of-famer finds ways in the end to keep his team undefeated.  But I think that run ends this week in Denver.  I’ve loved the Broncos defense this season, and if Brady plays the way he has of late, I think they make him pay late. DENVER WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Ravens @ Browns: No Joe Flacco. No Justin Forsett. A very bad season for Baltimore got worse in week 11, losing their two best offensive weapons.  The playoff perennials are just trying to stay out of the basement now.  And I just don’t think they will climb out.  I liked what Johnny Manziel has done since being named the starter, even if it didn’t result in wins. But with Manziel’s off the field issues bumping him out of the starting role, this is a tough game to call.  I was going to take the Browns with Manziel at starting QB, so even though he won’t be this week, I think I’ll stick with them.  CLEVELAND WINS

 

NFL: Week 11 Picks

And then there were two… undefeated teams that is.  Carolina in the NFC, and New England in the AFC are the only perfect teams left after week 10.  As we enter week 11, the playoff picture begins to take form.

Last week I went just 7-7, so let’s try to get better with the following week 11 picks.

Thursday Night Football

  • Titans @ Jaguars: I ask myself seemingly every year, why is this match-up a prime-time game? But this year, it actually kind of works.  Despite a combined 5-13 record, both of these teams are actually still in contention for the NFC South title.  Sad but true.  Tennessee is coming off a poor showing against the Panthers, while Jacksonville is coming off a two-point win over the the Ravens. As I’ve already said, neither team has been good this season, I have been impressed with both teams offenses at times.  Jacksonville has been a lot more consistent on both sides of the ball, so that’s why I’m going with the home team in this one. JACKSONVILLE WINS

Sunday 1 PM Games

  • Raiders @ Lions: Oakland looked about as bad as they have all season in their week 10 loss to the Vikings.  Detroit managed to pick yo their second and best win of the season, a road win over the Packers.  So which team shows up? The bad Raiders of a week ago, or the not so bad Lions team of a week ago?  Neither. I think the Raiders get back on track and even up their record.  The biggest issue for Oakland a week ago was stopping Adrian Peterson, and seeing as how the Lions have no run game to speak of, they’ll stop Matt Stafford enough to get to 5-5. OAKLAND WINS
  • Colts @ Falcons: I had Indianapolis making it to the Superbowl, but now they might not even make it of their division.  Atlanta would be a wild card in the NFC, though with how they started the season, they had higher hopes.  Both teams are coming off the bye, though the Colts will be without Luck under center, going instead with the healthy Matt Hasselbeck.  Indy has had trouble stopping basically everyone this week, and a rested Falcons offense should look closer to what they did in weeks 1-3 because of it. ATLANTA WINS
  • Jets @ Texans: All of a sudden the Texans have a better shot at the playoffs than the Jets.  New York’s defense has been struggling to go along with issues at QB.  As for Houston, the defense has started to round into shape.  Despite the better showing from the Texans of late, I still like the Jets offense led by Chris Ivory and with Houston’s inability to run the ball and sustain drives the way New York can, I like the road team to take win this game and stay in the hunt. NEW YORK WINS
  • Buccaneers @ Eagles: Whether they’re high or low scoring, the Bucs play in a lot of close games.  They’ve been very up and down because of it, not surprising for a team lead by a rookie quarterback.  As for Philly, they hope Mark Sanchez can relive his early Jets days now that Sam Bradford is out.  I like Sanchez in this offense, and thought the Eagles should’ve went to him earlier in the season.  It’s going to be another close game, one won by the home team. PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Broncos @ Bears: Peyton Manning is out, Brock Osweiler is in.  The offense looked the best it’s looekd all season when Osweiler came in last week for the injured future HOFer, which is sad for a previously 7-0 team.  Chicago is actually on a two game win streak, but I still don’t trust them. Give me the Broncos defense to do work against the Bears.   DENVER WINS
  • Rams @ Ravens: I am very disappointed in the Ravens this season.  They have been in every game they’ve played this season, but couldn’t make plays late like they used to.  St. Louis’ defense has been there all season, much like I thought it would be, but the offense under Nick Foles has left something to be desired most weeks.  Now with Case Keenum under center, the Rams look to keep the second spot in the NFC West, and I think they do just that. I have no faith in Baltimore anymore, and so I will take the Rams on the road.  ST LOUIS WINS
  • Cowboys @ Dolphins: The return of Tony Romo starts in Miami.  Seven straight losses and still the Cowboys have a shot at the division.  Miami has been up-and-down all season, but found a way against the Eagles a week ago.  I know a lot of the losses the Cowboys have suffered through could’ve been avoided with Romo under center, but I still like the up-and-down Dolphins to take this one at home. MIAMI WINS
  • Redskins @ Panthers: Washington has been a lot better offensively under Kirk Cousins.  But their defense is going to have trouble this week with a red hot Panthers team.  Early on Carolina was winning with their defense, but now all facets are clicking.  It could be a close game most of the way, but give me the Panthers to stay perfect another week. CAROLINA WINS

Sunday 4/425 PM Games

  • Chiefs @ Chargers:  As I wrote in my mid-season recap, the Chiefs hold their destiny in their own hands. And they’ve run with it.  Winners of three straight, including a huge win over Denver last week, they’ve at least put themselves back in the conversation in the AFC. They’re still a game under .500, but they look like a brand new team and still have a lot of games left in their own division.  As for their West counterparts, the Chargers have already lost as many games as they did in their past two seasons (both playoff years). Philip Rivers has been very good, but that’s about it.  San Diego hasn’t had much else going for them this season, hence the 2-7 mark.  With Kansas City as hot as they’ve been, I can’t see the Chargers overcoming that. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Packers @ Vikings: Don’t look now but we have a battle for the NFC North.  Not only do the Minnesota Vikings now find themselves a game ahead of the Packers, they come in red hot while Green Bay is on a three-game skid we haven’t seen the likes of since Aaron Rodgers first year as a starter in 2008. The Packers defense hasn’t been bad, the biggest problem has been the offense.  No run game has made the offense one dimension, and Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been able to clean up the act. That being said, I like Green Bay’s run defense to contain Peterson and find a way back in the win column. GREEN BAY WINS
  • 49ers @ Seahawks: The Legion of Boom is more like the Legion of Ka-Boom right now. But luckily for Seattle, they’ve got a poor offensive team in San Francisco coming in.  A QB change isn’t going to do much this year for the 49ers, and trying to figure it out with the 12th man watching won’t help matters. They may not be the same team that’s been to the last two Superbowls, but I like the Seahawks to take this game on Sunday. SEATTLE WINS

Sunday Night Football 

  • Bengals @ Cardinals: To say the Bengals were embarrassed on Monday night is an understatement.  To lose at home to a than three-win team in maybe the most worst division in football this season is bad.  To lose your perfect record in the process with a weight of playoff disappointment hanging over you, is really bad.  Luckily for Cincinnati, the rest of the AFC outside of New England isn’t great, so they’re still a comfortable two seed.  As for Arizona, they got a huge win in Seattle on Sunday and look like a sure bet to win their division.  They too currently hold the two seed in the NFC, but could lose it with the Vikings and Packers nipping at their heels.  CINCINNATI WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Bills @ Patriots: Buffalo has battled their way back into a possible playoff spot while the Pats are comfortably the one seed in the AFC as the last undefeated team in the conference. While the Bills should feel good about what they’ve done the last couple weeks, they’re still not on the same level as the Pats offensively.  Sure New England has been wrecked on the offensive line and now are without Julian Edelman, but I still like the Pats at home in this East match-up. NEW ENGLAND WINS

NFL: Week 10 Picks

I went 5-8 last week, bringing my season total to 73-59. Let’s get to week 10’s picks.

Thursday Night Football

  • Bills @ Jets: Both teams are coming off wins and sit at .500 or better behind the Patriots in the AFC East.  The Jets snapped their two game skid last week, but it still wasn’t pretty.  The run game was non-existent outside of the red-zone.  They allowed Blake Bortles to throw for 381 yards but did pick him off twice and a recovery of a fumble late helped seal their 5th win.  As for Buffalo, they got off to a fast start and never looked back against Miami in week 9.  The Bills relied heavily on the run game, with two 100 yard rushers, though when they did go to the air, QB Tyrod Taylor hit his mark.  Taylor was a very efficient 11/12 for 181 yards.  So will this game end with both teams owning 5-4 records or will the Jets move to two games over .500, dropping back to one below?  Give me the home team to better their wild card positioning this week.  NEW YORK WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Jaguars @ Ravens: It’s a match-up of 2-6 teams with Baltimore coming off their bye week and the Jaguars coming off the loss to New York. Jacksonville can score with the best of them, but can also be shut down pretty easily, showing their youth and inconsistency. The Ravens however, have been in every game they’ve played, but have failed to make the big play late more often than not. I’ll take the home team in this one.  BALTIMORE WINS
  • Browns @ Steelers: Last week the Browns couldn’t stop the Bengals quest for perfection, while the Steelers found a way to overcome another Ben Roethlisberger injury and no Le’Veon Bell.  Johnny Football couldn’t save the Browns from a seventh loss, while DeAngelo Williams went off on the ground, and Antonio Brown had a record day in the air.  Despite losing their starter again, I still like the Steelers in this one because their defense and run game are way better than what Cleveland has to offer. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Panthers @ Titans: Well, the Panthers are still undefeated and have now put together two very impressive and balanced wins.  Tennessee feels better about itself after snapping a six game slide and getting week one Marcus Mariota back.  Too bad they face Carolina this week, because there is no way all three phases of the Titans squad can keep up with the Panthers who are on a league high 12-game winning streak dating back to last season. CAROLINA WINS
  • Bears @ Rams: The Rams are a .500 and actually have the upper hand over the Seahawks if they both win this week.  Chicago found a way without Matt Forte to pick up their third win of the season thanks to a big night from Alshon Jeffery and a good job stopping the Chargers run game.  I like the Rams defense but they tend to play up or down to their opponents.  That being said, I like St Louis’ chances at home even if they do play down to Chicago. ST LOUIS WINS
  • Cowboys @ Buccaneers: This should be the last week the Cowboys are without Tony Romo, and considering they haven’t won without him, that’s a good thing.  They haven’t gotten killed without him, but the offense just hasn’t done enough to help out the defense.  As for Tampa, they’ve been very up and down, but have been in their last few games until the end.  Unless the Cowboys get the run game going in Tampa, I like the Buccaneers to make it seven straight losses for Dallas. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • Lions @ Packers: A down-and-out Detroit team versus a down Green Bay team.  Detroit continues to have the clearest path to the number one pick thanks to their barely one-win on the season so far.  Now they face a Packers team that is struggling after a 7-0 start.  Not to mention that it’s been two decades since the Lions have won on the road versus the Pack.  Make it another road loss for the hapless Lions. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Dolphins @ Eagles: One team dropped a division match-up last week, the other picked up a needed division win.  Miami sits in the cellar of the AFC East, while Philadelphia evened up their record and moved within a game of the Giants for first place in the NFC East. The offense wasn’t the problem for the Dolphins last week, but it hasn’t been a consistent year for Tannehill and company. I still don’t trust Sam Bradford so I like the Fins on the road.  MIAMI WINS
  • Saints @ Redskins: New Orleans got another big game on offense from Drew Brees, but turnovers and the defense’s inability to stop anyone hurt them again.  Washington had no chance against the Pats last week, dropping to 0-4 on the road.  They’re 3-1 at home this season, so maybe they play better, but I still like the Saints in this one. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Vikings @ Raiders: This is one of the most intriguing match-ups of the week.  Minnesota is off to one of it’s best starts at 6-2, while the Raiders strong start was hurt by a loss to Pittsburgh a week ago.  The Vikings escaped with an OT win against a good defensive team last week.  I liked Minnesota to challenge for a playoff spot before the season, and while I thought Oakland would be better than a year ago (not hard when you only win three games), I didn’t think they’d be in a playoff battle this year. Minnesota has been carried by their defense this season, but I think Oakland finds a way to get back in the win column at home. OAKLAND WINS
  • Chiefs @ Broncos: Coming off their first loss of the season, the Broncos also had their QB on the sidelines during practice this week.  As for Kansas City, they’ve started to look a lot better and have a second half schedule that could get them back in the AFC West race quickly if they continue to get better. That being said, Denver’s defense will be hungry after a poor showing against Indianapolis, so give me the home team to get back on track, especially if Manning plays. DENVER WINS
  • Giants @ Patriots: New York is taking on New England in a season that finds the Patriots undefeated… where have I heard this before?  The last time this happened, it was week 17, and the Pats eked out their 16th win to stay undefeated in the regular season.  Then went on to lose in the Superbowl to those same Giants.  Now here we are, with the Giants offense starting to click, going into Foxborough with a chance to hand the Pats their first loss.  These two teams play close games in the Manning-Brady era, and I don’t think that changes this week, something that will be different for the 2015 Pats.  But it’s tough in a normal year to win in New England, so give me the Pats to stay undefeated.  NEW ENGLAND WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Cardinals @ Seahawks: Talk about a big division match-up in prime-time.  Arizona has been the best team in the NFC West through the first half of the season.  But two games with the Seahawks in the 2nd half will be the marker for how read they are.  The reigning NFC champions have been very up and down this season and have a shot to get above .500.  It’s hard to go into Seattle and win, but I like what the Cardinals have done on both sides of the ball this season about as little I like the Seahawks offense this season. ARIZONA WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Texans @ Bengals: Houston is coming off their bye, while the Bengals are coming off their 8th win of the season.  The Texans won their game prior to their bye, but they weren’t all that impressive, particularly on the ground. Cincinnati continues to click on all cylinders and being at home with a chance to move to 9-0 is huge. CINCINNATI WINS

NFL: Week 9 Picks

Another week come and gone.  My picks record stands at 69-50 after an 8-6 week.

Bye weeks: Ravens, Chiefs, Cardinals, Texans, Lions and Seahawks

Thursday Night Football

  • Browns @ Bengals: Josh McCown is out (due to injury), Johnny Manziel is back in.  And while McCown has played well, Manziel led the Browns to one of their best games this season and probably should’ve been given more of a chance to be the starter. But it really doesn’t matter who starts for Cleveland on Thursday, because they face an undefeated Bengals team on the road.  I like the Bengals to find their run game again and get a fairly easy week 9 victory to improve to 8-0. CINCINNATI WINS 

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Dolphins @ Bills: It’s a battle to stay out of the cellar in the AFC East, and not a fight for a possible wild card like both teams probably thought it might be coming into the season.  The winner improves to .500 and stays relavant.  The loser doesn’t.  Miami is coming off a dud against the the Pats on a long week, while the Bills are coming off their bye week.  I don’t like either of these teams right now, but I trust the Dolphins offense more than the Bills, so I’ll take the road team in this one. MIAMI WINS
  • Packers @ Panthers: Aaron Rodgers and company had themselves their worst performance of the year last week and were handed their first loss by an undefeated Broncos squad.  And it doesn’t get easier this week against another undefeated team.  The Packers offense has been on a decline the past few weeks, so it’s not a surprise they looked terrible at the best defense in the league.  Now they get a red hot Carolina team that has won 11 straight dating back to last season.  That being said, while I finally trust this Panthers team, I also didn’t like what I saw in the second half against the Colts when they nearly blew a double digit lead.  I can’t imagine another horrible performance from Rodgers, so I think this is the week the Panthers fall, as the Green Bay defense has been very good all year. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Jaguars @ Jets: The Jets have lost two straight, while the Jags are coming off their second win and their bye week.   New York’s defense has been a shell of itself the last couple weeks, and they have issues at QB.  But they’re a better team than the Jags and I think they correct things enough to get their 5th win of the season. NEW YORK WINS
  • Rams @ Vikings: Both teams are playing well right now. St Louis is living by their run game, while the Vikings are living by their defense. The Rams tend to play up to their opponents, so I expect this to be a well-played, even game that comes down to the fourth water. I like the home team to make the plays down the stretch and improve to 6-2. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Redskins @ Patriots: The Redskins have had some ups, some downs, some more downs and a bye week.  The Patriots have been all up and it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon.  The reigning champs are healthy and have a very comfortable lead in the AFC East.  And as bad as it has been at times for Washington, they are in the most wide open division in the NFC.  Let’s be honest, this will probably be the most lopsided game of the week. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Titans @ Saints: Tennessee is in shambles and has a new head coach.  What they need is week one Marcus Mariota back and a defense.  New Orleans is on fire, and looking more like the team I thought they’d be to start the season. Their defense is a glaring weak point, but the offense showed last week it can do whatever it wants when clicking.  It’ll be another high scoring win for the Saints here in week nine. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Raiders @ Steelers: Oakland looks like it’s rounding into shape after a big road win over the Jets.  Pittsburgh got Ben Roethlisberger back, but lost Le’Veon Bell in a loss to Cincinnati. The offense is clicking for Oakland, and the defense is doing it’s job.  The Steelers were able to stay afloat without Big Ben, and now need to do the same again without Bell, who missed the first two games of the season.  I think this will be a good game, but as hard as it is to go into Pittsburgh and win, I think the Raiders find a way and move to 5-3. OAKLAND WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Giants @ Buccaneers: One team is coming off a last minute loss, the other, an OT win.  New York had one of its best offensive performances in team history.  But the defense couldn’t stop anyone, so Eli Manning became the first QB in NFL history to throw six touchdowns and zero interceptions in a loss.  As for Tampa Bay, they nearly blew a big lead for the second week in a row.  For that reason, the Giants should have no excuse but to put up another big number on offense, and with the possible return of Jason Pierre-Paul and a worse offensive team than New Orleans as their opponents, they should have no trouble getting back over .500. NEW YORK WINS
  • Falcons @ 49ers: Atlanta is coming off a bad loss to the Bucs, while the Niners in a time of transition after benching Colin Kaepernick for Blaine Gabbert.  San Francisco has a bottom five defense and offense, while the Falcons continue to be one of the NFL’s best despite the week eight hiccup.  This should be an easy win for Atlanta as they look to stay at worst a game back of Carolina in the South.  ATLANTA WINS
  • Broncos @ Colts: Denver is coming off their best win of the season and boast the league’s best defense.  Imagine if Peyton Manning was actually playing well? It can still happen of course, and against a struggling Indianapolis team, it could be a breakout week for the an tied with for the most QB wins in NFL history.  And wouldn’t it be fitting for Manning to get the record win against the team he won a majority of those games with?  Meanwhile, his replacement in Andrew Luck finally looked like himself late against Carolina on Monday.  But it still ended in another loss.  For as explosive as he is, turnovers continue to plague him and are holding this team back right now.  An offensive coordinator move could help, but against this defense, it’s going to be tough. DENVER WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Eagles @ Cowboys: It’s a battle of two struggling NFC East teams that despite their issues, have a legitimate chance to rebound and win their division.  Both teams have been more down than up this season, but for very different reasons. Healthy Dallas was 2-0, but they’ve lost 5 straight without Tony Romo.  Fairly healthy Philadelphia has just been very inconsistent, particularly on offense.  So who keeps hope alive on Sunday Night?  Give me Dez Bryant to have a big second week back from injury and a much better Matt Cassel.  DALLAS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Bears @ Chargers: Two teams having disappointing seasons square off in prime-time.  The trade deadline has come and gone and the Bears didn’t tear down the roster like some thought they might.  As for the Chargers, their offense has been pretty good all season, but they will now be without a big weapon in Keenan Allen.  Neither team has a good defense, but based on the offenses, I think San Diego has one of their best games of the season and their easiest wins as well.  SAN DIEGO WINS

NFL: Halfway to the Finish Line – Where does your team stand through 8 weeks?

Time flies when you’re having fun, which must be why it is so crazy to think we are half way through another NFL season.  And that means it’s time to take a look at my five teams, my bottom teams, and the best of the rest through the first half of the NFL season.

5 Best Teams Through Week 8

  1. New England Patriots (7-0) – There’s just no stopping this team right now.  Not even in their worst game of the season against the New York Jets could they be stopped from putting up 30. The Superbowl Champs are in their opponents heads in every way possible and they’re taking advantage.  Not to mention Tom Brady is having one of his most efficient seasons at 38. They’ve got a massive three game lead in the AFC East, so unless something crazy happens, they’ll easily win their seventh straight division title.
  2. Denver Broncos (7-0) – That defense. It’s the reason they are where they are. Denver’s is number one in total defense, passing defense and fourth in run defense.  I’d say that’s pretty good. The run game showed up BIG time in week 8 to help take down the previously undefeated Packers at home.  Peyton Manning has had an uncharacteristically bad start to the season, but it hasn’t mattered. Most of their wins have been dicey, but they made it look easy in week 8 and showed just what this team can do.  If they can get more consistency out of the passing game, they will go very far this season.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-0) – For a team that has made the playoffs four years running, they’ve still got a lot to prove thanks to all of their first round exits.  They could finish 16-0 and still not be thought as favorites. Not here though. They’ve played smart, mistake free football all season, have an MVP candidate in Andy Dalton and a top flight defense.  They played their worst game in week 7, but as good teams do, they found a way to pull out another victory.
  4. Carolina Panthers (7-0) – I was skeptical of this team through four weeks because it’s hard to win every week when your offense can barely scrape together 200 yards of offense. But here they are, still undefeated and atop the NFC South. Their defense has been great all season, though it did allow Andrew Luck to force OT with a poor second half.  And with a top five run game, the passing game was able to work itself out and get better every week.  They’re not blowing teams out, but their wins tend to feel easy nonetheless. The second half will test them, as they haven’t faced the Falcons yet, but if they stay healthy, look for them to make it to the playoffs one way or another.
  5. Green Bay Packers (7-1) – It hasn’t been pretty offensively of late, and running into the Broncos defense didn’t help.  Aaron Rodgers had just 77 yards passing in their first loss of the season, and the run game didn’t do much better.  But they are still capable and have a pretty favorable schedule the rest of the way, with five games still left in their division.  The defense has been there all season, so you hope as a Packers fan their inability to stop the run game in the red zone week 8 was just an anomaly.  And you can’t be too worried about Aaron Rodgers, who has had many more great games than duds in his career.

Worst Teams Through Week 8

  1. San Francisco 49ers (2-6)Fans were calling for Colin Kaepernick to be benched, and it’s a fair call that’s rumored to be set in motion.  When your quarterback, whether they’re a mobile QB or not, rarely ever thinks pass first, that’s a problem.  And if you’re going to run as much as Kaepernick, you better move the chains more than the 49ers do. This run first mentality has also led to 28 sacks, second most in the league this season.  San Fran has struggled on both sides of the ball, sitting dead last in total offense and points per game, as well as bottom five in total defense.  They play in one of the best divisions in football, and they’ll be very lonely in the cellar for the rest of the year.
  2. Tennessee Titans (1-6) – Opening weekend was such a tease for Titans fans.  Marcus Mariota burst on the scene against the Bucaneers, putting up 50 easy.  Then it all went down hill from there.  Six sraight losses and theyve taken their bye already.  Mariota has missed the last two with injury.  The defense has had some pretty good games, but the offense is non-existent with no end in sight.
  3. Detroit Lions (1-7) – They’re just bad. Plain and simple. They were 11-5 last season and didn’t lose much in the off-season, so I thought they’d be back again this year.  But that hasn’t been the case, and they’re just lucky to not be win-less at this point.  Matthew Stafford has a terrible TD-INT ratio of 13-11, adding to seven lost fumbles by the team.  The run game has been non-existent all season.  The defense can’t stop anyone, and didn’t even stop the Bears well in their only win of the year.  Detroit is allowing the most points per game.  It’s all pretty bad for the Motor City right now.

Best of the Rest

  • Arizona Cardinals (6-2) – They did what they needed to do in the first half of the season, but now they face probably the hardest second half schedules in the league.  It helps that they’ve got a two game lead in the NFC West, and that they’ve remained relatively healthy.  But they’re going to need to stay focused for the full 60 minutes in every game, because the two times they haven’t they’ve lost.  Of their eight remaining opponents, you’ve got three teams that are currently playoff contenders, two games with the Seahawks or the Rams, who they’ve lost to already. They’re very well-balanced on both sides of the ball, sitting top five in total offense and total defense.
  • Minnesota Vikings (5-2) – I’m not sure how I feel about this team yet.  I thought they’d have a shot coming into the season at a playoff spot, and I was right .  But they haven’t had a hard schedule to this point, and every team they play the rest of the way is currently above .500 except the Bears in week 15.  They win close games, they win at home and are just a game behind the Packers in the North with both games left against them.  They truly control their destiny, but could also fall out of this very quickly if Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t figure things out in the passing game.
  • Atlanta Falcons (6-2) – Early on they were running all over opponents with a breakout start from Devonta Freeman.  They had a cake first half, but managed to lose two games to below .500 teams.  But that’s all slowed down.  Four straight nail-biters against the non-elite and you have question how far this team can actually go.  Two second half match-ups versus Carolina will tell a lot, and decide the division, but only if they continue to beat up on the teams they should.  Matt Ryan needs to find consistency in the passing game again.
  • New York Giants (4-4) – It’s amazing how many late game collapses this team has had through 8 weeks.  If you watched every minute of this team as I have, you know they should be no worse than 6-2, having only been out of 1 game (at Philly).  Their defense played well the first four weeks, but mismanagement led to their first two losses.  Eli Manning is having probably the best start to a season in year two of Ben McAdoo’s offense.  But the defense has been on a rapid decline since week 5 and are on pace to go down as maybe the worst defense of all time.  Injuries haven’t helped, but allowing 7 touchdown passes a week after allowing the Cowboys to run for 233 yards is just unacceptable.  If the defense can at least be average, this team should still capture the NFC East pretty easily, which is why I keep them in the best-of-the-rest category.  I know this defense can get better with some health, and they’ll get another body back in Jason Pierre-Paul.
  • Oakland Raiders (4-3) – No this isn’t a mistake. The Black and Silver have already won more games than they did in 2014, and as many as they did in 2013.  They currently boast the second ranked run defense in the league, and Charles Woodson looks like he’s 29 again, leading the league with five interceptions.  Amari Cooper is proving why he was a top draft pick and Derek Carr continues to improve week-to-week. They’re not turning the ball over, as Carr has a 5-1 TD to INT ratio.  Oakland finds themselves in second place in the AFC West, in a fight for a while card and are a lot more consistent than the teams below them, so they could stay there.  We’ll learn a lot about this young team in the second half, with four games left in the division, and three against other playoff contenders.
  • New York Jets (4-3) Two straight losses for a team that looked like they’d keep pressure on the Pats all season.  The defense has allowed 60 points the last two weeks after allowing 75 total the first six weeks.  Add to that an injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick and nagging issues for Chris Ivory and things might seem bleak.  However, the Jets schedule is favorable, with their eight of their nine final ,opponents currently at .500 or below, with a home game against the Patriots in week 16 as their biggest test. So take advantage the next seven and there’s still hope for not only a wild card but if the Pats falter at all, the division.

Best Chance to Rebound

  • New Orleans Saints (4-4) – The offense is rounding into shape nicely, but as mentioned withe the Giants, their defense is very bad.  Drew Brees had faith in this young group after their 0-3 start, and that faith is paying off.  An NFL record tying 7 touchdowns in week 8 shows Brees still has the arm and drive to lead this team.  They’ve got a lot of work with the Falcons and Panthers both ahead of them, but with so many under .500 teams in the NFC, they can absolutely grab a wild card spot if they can continue to improve and get better on defense.
  • Seattle Seahawks (4-4) – The defense continues to be a step below what they’ve been the past two seasons, but they’re making the plays when they need to. The offense has been shaky, and nearly lost to the Cowboys in week 8.  But they know how to win and as the NFC champs to years running, you can’t count them out until yet.
  • St Louis Rams (4-3) – This is a strange team. They’re 3-0 in their division, a division that boasts two playoff teams from a year ago. But sometimes young teams are inconsistent, and St. Louis is definitely that. They seem to play up or down to that day’s opponent.  1-3 against the rest of the league, with two of those coming to the Redskins and a Roethlisberger-less Steelers team.  But the run game has been explosive with the addition of rookie Todd Gurley, helping kill clock and lessen the possibility for mistakes in the air.  Add a defense that has allowed the fourth fewest points through 8 weeks, and you can see why this team can make some noise now.
  • Kansas City Chiefs (3-5) – Much like the Seahawks, this team knows how to get into the playoffs.  They started out slow, and lost their best offensive weapon in Jamaal Charles, but they’ve looked a lot better the last two weeks, and the wild card battle in the AFC is wide open. 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.

NFL: Week 7 Picks

And then there were 5… undefeated team that is. At least 3 of them will remain so until at least week 8, as the Broncos, Packers and Bengals are all on their bye weeks (as are the Bears).

Last week I finished at 8-6 in my picks, so I head into week 7 with a record of 53-43.

Thursday Night Football

  • Seahawks @ 49ers: The Niners have looked a lot better on offense the last two weeks, after entering week 5 as the worst scoring team in the league.  As for the reigning NFC Champs, Seattle’s offense has been very hit or miss, and their vaunted defense has left a lot to be desired through 6 weeks. So what continues? An upswing for Colin Kaepernick and company, or the return of the Legion of Boom? Give me the Seahawks to shut down the passing game of the Niners and get back on track. SEATTLE WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Buffalo @ Jacksonville: The Bills are falling apart (mostly self-inflicted) and behind in the AFC East. Jacksonville is stuck in another bad year, as they’re currently the third worst scoring offense, and allowing the third most points on defense. Despite injuries, Buffalo’s defense has the ability to stop anyone when they set their minds to it, and this week’s opponent is a good opportunity to do just that. BUFFALO WINS
  • Buccaneers @ Redskins: I don’t like either one of these team’s offenses, but one team has a defense that is more than capable.  And that would be the home team. WASHINGTON WINS
  • Falcons @ Titans: The Falcons are coming off their first loss of the season, so it’ll be interesting to see how they bounce back.  Tennessee has been on a downward trend after a huge first game and now Marcus Mariota is banged up.  It’s a trap game for sure, but I like Atlanta on the road to get back in the win column.  ATLANTA WINS
  • Saints @ Colts: Neither team is having the season I thought they would.  But New Orleans found a way to take down the previously undefeated Falcons last week to snap their skid.  As for my preseason AFC favorites, the Colts lost by a score in week 7, and did so by running maybe the worst play in NFL history.  That being said, Indy played probably it’s best game on offense against the Patriots, and with Andrew Luck in his second game back from injury, I like the Colts at home to move back above .500.  INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Vikings @ Lions: Detroit got monkey off their back in overtime last week against Chicago.  Their offense was unstoppable and they look to build on it.  Minnnesota is coming off their bye looking to stay two back of the Packers in the North.  While I liked what I saw from the Lions offense, they are still incapable of stopping anyone, and I really like what the Vikings can do when their offense is running through Adrian Peterson. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Steelers @ Chiefs: One team is making the best of a bad situation, the other isn’t.  Pittsburgh is two QBs down and they still found a way to take down the Arizona Cardinals.  Kansas City was already on a spiral before losing Jamaal Charles.  Their offense is a mess.  Give me the road team to continue the Chiefs struggles. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Browns @ Rams: I liked the Browns to beat the Broncos a week ago, and they nearly did it. St. Louis is coming off their bye and have a chance to take hold of the second spot in the NFC West.  Cleveland could easily be above .500 if a few things had bounced their way.  But I like what they’ve done so far this season, and the Rams seem to play down or up to their opponents.  CLEVELAND WINS
  • Texans @ Dolphins: Both teams got much-needed victories in week 6. Both QBs had nice games, but Miami got their running game going in a huge way.  Both defenses were up to the task, with The Texans holding when needed, while the Dolphins were dominant from start to finish.  I think this game will go down to the wire, and I see a big JJ Watt play as being the difference. HOUSTON WINS
  • Jets @ Patriots: An early fight for the AFC East between two teams with a long history and one combined loss.  The Jets are clicking on all cylinders thanks to a tightening up of the secondary and a healthy Chris Ivory.  New England is perfect and still playing well on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a close, hard fought game, and I the run game will be the difference.  I have more confidence in the Jets on both sides of getting it going and stopping the run, so give me a big road win for the guys in green.  NEW YORK WINS

Sunday 4/425 PM Games

  • Raiders @ Chargers: Philip Rivers had his best game ever last week, throwing for over 500 yards, but it wasn’t enough. The Raiders  have shown flashes, particularly on defense. San Diego’s offense isn’t the problem, and that’s why they will have another letdown this week.  OAKLAND WINS
  • Cowboys @ Giants: Dallas is coming off their bye but they’re not any healthier.  Dez Bryant is not a guarantee and they need him without Tony Romo.  As for the Giants, they’re coming off their worst game of the season on Monday night. NEW YORK WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Eagles @ Panthers: Philly is coming off a big win on Monday Night to take a share of first in the NFC East.  But they shouldn’t feel too good about things, with how bad Sam Bradford played. In my opinion it’s time to go to Mark Sanchez, though I don’t see how it would make much different this week.  Carolina has gotten better every week, and find themselves undefeated despite their offense getting off to an extremely slow start.  Now they have a shot to improve to 7-0 in front of their home crowd.  I like their chances. CAROLINA WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Ravens @ Cardinals: So the Ravens are just that bad.  Arizona is one of the better teams in the league, but have allowed themselves to take two games off, both losses.  So which bird flies highest on Monday? I don’t trust any part of the Ravens team right now, so give me the home team to get back on track. ARIZONA WINS