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
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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: Week 1 Recap… Week 2 Picks

So many things went down in week 1 that I need to break it all down before I can look ahead to week 2.

Top 3 Teams From Week 1

New England Patriots (1-0) – Tom Brady to preseasons – “Who needs them?” The veteran QB looked great despite not knowing he’d play in week 1 until just days before the season began. The Superbowl champs made easy work of the Steelers behind a great performance from Rob Gronkowski, who caught three of Brady’s four passing TDs. The rush defense was one of the only concerns, allowing DeAngelo Williams to rise from the ashes in the wake of the Le’Veon Bell suspension. If week 1 is any indication of how the rest of the season will go, the rest of the East is not going to have as easy of a time as they thought overtaking the Pats as they thought before the suspension was overturned.

Buffalo Bills (1-0) – Can we talk about that defense?  The Rex Ryan affect was swift and immediate. To shutdown an offensive juggernaut like Andrew Luck the way they did was impressive.  And what about the showing by Tyrod Taylor?

Tennessee Titans (1-0) – Marcus Mariota (your AFC Offensive Player of the week) looked like a veteran in his first career start.  He put up numbers impressive for any QB, let alone a rookie.  But he didn’t do it alone.  The team played well in all phases of the game.

3 Worst Teams From Week 1

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) – Their defense was not ready for rookie QB Marcus Mariota.  Jamie’s Winston was outplayed by the guy picked behind him in this years draft.  A nice surprise was the 100+ yard receiving game by Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the offensive end, but little help from the run game and no help from the defense spelled disaster from the start.

2. Oakland Raiders (0-1) – There was no pressure on Andy Dalton and it allowed his receiving core to walk all over them all day.  The offense wasn’t pretty, barely scrapping 50 yards rushing, while losing their starting QB to injury.  You can’t go down 33-0. Ever.

3. New Orleans Saints (0-1) – After a disappointing season a year ago, I thought the Saints would come out swinging in week 1.  Arizona has a formidable defense, but a Drew Brees led offense should never have to settle for four field goals.  They need a whole heck of a lot more from their run game, and obviously need to convert in the green/red zone.

3 Most Disappointing Teams From Week 1

  1. New York Giants (0-1) – They threw on 3rd and goal but kicked it on 4th and goal. I don’t get it either. IF you run on 3rd down, you run the clock down to a minute. Dallas has no time-outs left. If you go for it then on 4th and goal, and score, then dagger. If you go for it and you don’t score, they’re inside their five with what, 20 seconds? It’s a loss that will sting all season.

2. Detroit Lions (0-1) – They got off to such a great start that you thought       they’d finally figured out their road struggles. Wrong. After being up 21-3     in the 2nd, they allowed Philip Rivers and company to score 30 straight points.

3. Seattle Seahawks (0-1) – I know it was a road game, and I never thought the Rams would be an easy out this season. But to give up 34 points the way they did, it was discouraging for the Legion of BoomThe offense figured it out in the fourth to force overtime, but the offensive line needs to protect Russell Wilson better.

Now that that’s done, I can look ahead to week 2 with my picks. I finished last week 10-6.  I’d say that’s not bad considering there were so many strange outcomes. Here’s my outlook for week 2.

Thursday Night Football

  • Broncos @ Chiefs: Peyton Manning didn’t throw an opening week TD for the first time in 12 years. Alex Smith had a big week one despite no touchdowns to wide-receivers. Both teams defenses looked good in week 1. Peyton Manning’s decline has definitely begun, but I can’t see home having a second straight poor outing in a row. Give me the road win for the future hall-of-gamerDENVER WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Texans @ Panthers: Carolina won their first game of the season, but they didn’t do much offensively to impress me.  Houston is already making a change at quarterback and didn’t do much defensively.  But get JJ Watt back home and Ryan Mallet starting, I think the Panthers will be shut down enough to even up both teams records. HOUSTON WINS
  • Buccaneers @ Saints: Both teams enter in at 0-1.  Neither team looked good on defense, both has their moments on offense.  Division match-ups are never easy, but I cannot see the Saints going down 0-2 a second year in a row, so give me the home team in an easy one.  NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • 49ers @ Steelers: When I looked at the schedule before the season, I thought week 1 would be one of the few opportunities San Francisco would have at a win. I still picked Minnesota, but I was right about the Niners in that respect. The biggest mistake the Steelers made in their week one loss was not covering Gronk.  Roethlisberger looked good, the running game without Le’Veon Bell looked very good. The 49ers tight-ends are nowhere close to the talent of Gronk combined, so if the Steelers play their game, they should pick up their first win of the year. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Lions @ Vikings: I was excited to see the Vikings offense get to work in week 1, with Adrian Peterson returning and the addition of Mike Wallace to help out reigning ROY Teddy Bridgewater.  Well, I was left underwhelmed. As for the Lions, as I said before, they were one of the more disappointing teams in week 1.  I can’t see their defense being as bad as they were last week, so while Minnesota should score more than three points, I see a rare road win for Detroit this week. DETROIT WINS
  • Cardinals @ Bears: The Bears found a way to keep their week 1 match-up versus the Packers close despite an underwhelming performance by Jay Cutler.  It was the run game that kept them in it, but now they face a defense fresh off a great performance against the Saints… on the road to boot. Carson Palmer looked great fresh off his ACL injury, and QB stability late is what doomed the Cards a season ago. ARIZONA WINS
  • Patriots @ Bills: The winner moves to 2-0 and takes an early AFC East lead.  This game will come down to the Bills ability to stop Rob Gronkowski, who showed the Steelers defense no mercy.  I loved everything Buffalo did against Indy a week ago.  I thought Tom Brady looked as sharp as ever, but I think a lot of what happened on Thursday night was adrenaline.  I hated their run defense against Pittsburgh, so I expect LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams to combine for a big day.  Give me the home team to hand the champs their first loss since week 17, also against the Bills. BUFFALO WINS
  • Chargers @ Bengals: Both teams got great offensive performances from their quarterbacks to start the season.  Philip Rivers threw for over 400 yards, despite two early picks, while Andy Dalton was even cleaner with no picks and two TDs.  Cincinnati also had a better showing on defense, though San Diego did recover from a rough start.  I like both of these teams to have good seasons, but only one can start the season 2-0.  And based on consistency and where the game is taking place, give me the Bengals in a race to 30. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Titans @ Browns: So the Browns lost their starter on an ill-advised scoring attempt, saw Johnny Manziel throw a bomb into the Jets secondary and lose by 21. And now they get a red-hot Titans team and their own young QB fresh off of a road win to open the season.  And don’t think that win was all Mariota, Tennessee played well in all phases of the game.  So give me the road team to drop the home team to 0-2. TENNESSEE WINS
  • Falcons @ Giants: Atlanta nearly blew a double-digit lead at home to the Eagles, while New York did drop a double-digit lead on the road to the Cowboys.  Roddy White is healthy and it makes the pairing of him and Julio Jones look nearly unstoppable.  The Giants played well until they decided to forget how to run out a clock properly.  Their defense forced a number of errors, and actually take advantage, something they didn’t do last season.  Eli Manning saw a lot of dropped passes and only got help on the ground in the fourth quarter.  They did enough to win, but shot themselves in the foot, and you know they will be extra hungry for their home opener.  The Falcons defense struggled late, so there are holes to expose. Give me an embarrassed Giants squad to come out strong early. NEW YORK WINS
  • Rams @ Redskins: The Rams are coming off an impressive OT victory over the NFC Champs.  Putting up 34 on the Legion of Boom is reason enough to pick the Rams this week.  Add the ever standing issues in Washington and it makes the decision easier. They say anyone can beat anyone on Any Given Sunday, but I’ll take the road team in this one. ST LOUIS WINS

Sunday 4/4:25 PM Games

  • Dolphins @ Jaguars: I was a bit disappointed with the Dolphins offense against the Redskins a week ago.  But the defense was great and they get what should be another easy one this week.  Jacksonville’s offense can be a lot better than it was against Carolina, but I don’t see it being enough this week. MIAMI WINS
  • Ravens @ Raiders: Baltimore lost more than just a game last week.  They lost the heart of their defense when Terrell Suggs went down.  Joe Flacco looked awful, and the run game didn’t look any better. I’ll chalk some of it up to a good showing by the Broncos defens. They stayed in it because of their own defense and that’s what they should have an easy time against Oakland this weekend. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Cowboys @ Eagles: Both of these NFC East does did a lot of good things late I. Their games last weekend, but a lot  of bad early.  I think the Cowboys are the better team, but there’s something abuts these NFC East contests where the team that on paper should win, usually doesn’t. I should also mention DeMarco Murray will want to show why he should’ve been kept over the now injured Dez Bryant. PHILADELPHIA WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Seahawks @ Packers: It’s close, but above Pats/Bills, and Broncos/Chiefs, this is the game of the week. You’ve got the defending champs coming off a road loss to their division foes that saw them give up 34 points.  Then you’ve got Aaron Rodgers who just doesn’t lose at home, coming off a nice road win that saw a magical reconnection with wideout James Jones. Oh and add the revenge Green Bay wants after losing in the NFC Champuonhip game last year. These two teams always play entertaining games and this should be no different. With no Kam Chancellor in the secondary again this weekend (should he continue his holdout), something is missing for the defending NFC champs. I don’t like it, but give me the Pack to drop the Hawks to a shocking 0-2. GREEN BAY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Jets @ Colts: Last week was one of the worst showings by Andrew Luck in his young career. The Bills defense was everywhere.  And while the Jets defense is very good, their secondary was still torched by Manziel, who is no Luck.  Not to mention that the Jets banged up on defense.  The offense for New York was impressive behind Chris Ivory, so the Colts will have to figure out how to shut him down. But I like Andrew Luck too much to think they open 0-2. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

NFL: Week 11 Thoughts

11 down. 6 to go. And playoff races are starting to heat up.  The final undefeated has fallen, while leads atop divisions have shrunken, grown and switched hands.  Everything you could hope as the days inch closer to the holidays.

2 more teams were off this week: the  Cowboys and the Rams.

NFC EAST (The Birds Are All Alone Atop the Division… For Now)

  • Eagles: A 3rd straight victory snapped a franchise record 10-game home losing streak.  Up 17-0 at the halftime break, the defense was able to hold off a 4th quarter comeback.  The offense looked great in the 1st half, but only scored once in the 2nd half.  Nick Foles used his legs, not his arm, to find the end-zone this week.  Philly’s new top gun ran in for a score, while LeSean McCoy did the rest, finding pay-dirt twice on the afternoon.  Foles threw no TDs, while continuing his streak of no interceptions in tack as apart of a 298-yard passing day.  They became the 8th team in NFL history with at least 2,800 passing yards and 1,600 rushing yards through it’s first 11 games. With Dallas off, Philly takes over sole possession of 1st in the East, but they have already lost once to the Cowboys with another match-up ahead. (6-5)
  • Cowboys: Bye Week. (5-5)
  • Giants: 4 straight wins for the Giants, and this was the best all-around game in the stretch.  Eli Manning looked as good as he has since week 1 (the part after those 3 interceptions to start the year).  The struggling 2-time Superbowl MVP threw a 26-yard touchdown to Ruben Randle in a game where he completed 25 of 35 passes for 279 yards.  Running backs Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs did their thing on the ground, combining for 75 yards and a score.  The defense allowed just the 2nd touchdown in their last 18 quarters, and they continued to shut down opposing backs.  Up just 7 in the 4th, Jason Pierre-Paul sealed the win with a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown. (4-6)
  • Redskins: The offense couldn’t do anything right until the 4th quarter.  Down 24-0, Robert Griffin III threw TD passes of 62 and 41 yards to Darrel Young and Aldrick Robinson, while converting on both 2-point conversions to get within 8.  With one final drive, Griffin drove Washington all the way to the Eagles 18 before a Brandon Boykin interception sealed the loss. Griffin and Alfred Morris combined for 137 yards on the ground, but two RGIII turnovers proved too costly in the end. They’re now alone in last place, with two against the Giants left to be played. (3-7)

NFC NORTH (It’s Crowded at the Top)

  • Lions: A golden opportunity to at least hold onto their 1 game lead, they got off to a slow start in Pittsburgh and never recovered. They now have company atop the division, though should they end in a tie with Chicago, they hold the tiebreaker.  Matt Stafford did become the franchise’s leading passer thanks to his 362-yards passing.  And Calvin Johnson put up monster numbers again, with 179 and a score.  But much of their damage came in a 27 point 2nd quarter.  Detroit was shutout in the 2nd half, while the defense surrendered 4 Steelers touchdowns and 3 field-goals.  (6-4)
  • Bears: A long weather delay gave Chicago new life, leading to an overtime win on the strength of a 38-yard Robbie Gould field-goal.  Down 10-0 with 4:51 in the 1st, play was stopped because of tornado warnings.  Nearly 2 hours later, play resumed, and the Bears woke up. Josh McCown connected with Matt Forte on his lone TD pass of the day.  Forte added 83-yards on the ground to that receiving touchdown.  Defensive end David Bass added a score on defense with a 24-yard interception return of Joe Flacco in the 2nd quarter. (6-4) 
  • Packers: Scott Tolzien had a chance to tie in the 4th quarter, but a pick 6 sealed a 3rd straight loss since losing Aaron Rodgers and then Seneca Wallace. Despite nearly 350 yards passing, the team couldn’t recover from Tolzien’s 3 interceptions, including the game sealing  pick 6. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy was all but shutdown, managing just 27 rushing yards and a score that turned into nothing more than window dressing.  All hope is not lost, with Rodgers back to practice and match-ups against all three division foes left on the schedule. (5-5)
  • Vikings: Neither Christian Ponder, or Matt Cassel could solve the Seahawks defense, combining for 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and a lost fumble on Sunday.  Toby Gerhart and not Adrian Peterson led the team in rushing yards, but the 132 combined yards on the ground didn’t help stave off defeat.  Just about the only things they did well were to keep it close at half, and limit Lynch everywhere but the redzone.  (2-8)

NFC SOUTH (The Saints Keep Marching On)

  • Saints: It was a defensive struggle in the 2nd half, but 9 points in the 4th gave New Orleans the come-from-behind home victory over San Francisco.   Tied late, Marques Colston finished off a record day with a 20-yard catch to set up Garrett Hartley’s 31-yard game winning field goal as time expired.  The wide-receiver out of Hofstra finished the day with five catches for 80 yards to become the Saints all-time leader in yards receiving with 7,922. It wasn’t the Saints best day offensively, but it was enough thanks to the play of the defense.  3 sacks and a pick of Colin Kaepernick gave Drew Brees and company enough time to get 3 scoring drives in the 4th. (8-2)
  • Panthers: Maybe now is the time to start talking about this team as a threat. A 4-point win on Monday night gives them 6 straight, and back-to-back statement wins.  Cam Newton threw for 3 touchdowns for the 3rd time this season, something he did only twice his first 2 seasons in the league.  He spread the wealth, hitting 3 different receivers for scores, while 3 finished with at least 50-yards receiving.  Ted Ginn Jr was the recipient of the game winner with just over a minute to play in regulation. Newton was also the only real threat in the run game, leading the way with 62 on the ground to go with 209 in the air.  The defense forced two turnovers, including a Brady INT in the end-zone as time expired.  According to the Panthers PR department, they’re the first team since the 1935 Giants to allow 1 or fewer first half touchdowns over their first 10 games of the season. (7-3)
  • Buccaneers: Don’t look now but the previously win-less Bucs are on a win streak. Waiver wire pick-up Bobby Rainey had himself a day in the place of the injured Doug Martin and Mike James.  162-yards rushing and 2 scores for the 2nd year back out of Western Kentucky.  Not to mention a 3rd touchdown catch for Rainey thrown by Mike Glennon, who finished with 231 and two scores on the day. Vincent Jackson had a monster day, grabbing 10 passes for 165 and a touchdown. (2-8)
  • Falcons: I never thought this team would be at the bottom of the division with all the talent they have, but here they are.  They’ve now dropped 4 straight, and according to NFL.com, they’ve been outscored 135-61 in that stretch.  Matt Ryan threw 2 touchdowns, but also another 2 interceptions.  Harry Douglas had another good game despite being questionable leading up to kick-off, catching 6 passes for 134-yards and a score.  The run game was finally decent, but if you can’t stop the run or get stops in the red-zone, you’re not going to win many games. (2-8)

NFC WEST (The Hawks Are Flying Away With It)

  • Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch didn’t have the monster yardage total he’s accustomed to, but he made his yards count, taking it in for 2 scores, one on the ground and one in the air, in a big win over the Vikings.  Russell Wilson didn’t throw it much, but he did complete 13 of 18 for 230 and two touchdowns.  It was still a game at the half, but the defense did it’s job in the 2nd half, including a pick 6 to help pull away for good.  The win makes them just 1 of 3 teams with just 1 loss, and keeps their 1-game lead for the NFC’s number 1 seed in tact after the Saints win.  Not to mention all but locks up the West after the aforementioned New Orleans win over San Francisco. (10-1)
  • 49ers: Make it two straight losses after a 5-game stretched where San Fran looked nearly unbeatable.  This team doesn’t blow many leads, but they did just that against the Saints. Colin Kaepernick was sacked 3 times, threw 2 touchdowns and an interception.  He nor running back Frank Gore could get much going on the ground.  Aaron Brooks had really the only good game on defense, picking off Brees, getting the teams lone sack and forcing a fumble.  Now they’re tied for 2nd with Arizona. (6-4)
  • Cardinals: Nobody is talking about this team, but they are in a fight for a wildcard thanks in large part to their defense.  They got off to a slow start in the 1st quarter, but then both sides of the ball dominated the Jaguars for the rest of the way. Carson Palmer threw for 419 yards and two scores and no picks for the first time all year.  Receiver Michael Floyd finished with a career-high 193 yards receiving, including a 91-yard touchdown. (6-4)
  • Rams: Bye Week. (4-6)

AFC EAST (The Pats Maintain a Decent Lead)

  • Patriots: They were down 10 early, but rallied back to take the lead in the 4th, but it wasn’t enough. Tom Brady threw for just 1 touchdown, and didn’t get the help he needed from his run game.  He had a shot with 4-seconds left from his own 18, but his final throw was picked off in the end-zone.  Controversy struck when a flag for what New England thought would be defensive holding was picked up.  Brady was visibly upset with the refs as the teams took the field to shake hands. Whether or not the call should’ve been made, the Patriots were once again shutdown by a top flight defense.  Lucky for them the Jets didn’t close the gap.  (7-3)
  • Jets: They’re consistently inconsistent. According to NFL.com, they’re the first team to alternate wins and losses the first 10 games of the season.  Geno Smith looked like a rookie on the road today, with 2 turnovers in the 1st half alone. Things got worse when he was benched in favor of Matt Simms.  Down 20-0 at the half, they could never make a threat on the Bills. Chris Ivory had really the only good day, falling just short of a 100 yards on the ground to go with a score. (5-5)
  • Dolphins: This needed a win for many reasons, and they battled til the end to get one. Their first since the bully scandal broke, Ryan Tannehill led his team to victory.  The 2nd year quarterback threw for 268 yards, including a 39-yard score to tight-end Charles Clay to break a 10-10 tie in the third. Miami also managed 104 yards rushing behind a makeshift offensive line. (5-5)
  • Bills: EJ Manuel led his team to their 1st win in 3 weeks. Manuel was on point, completing 20 of 28 passes for 245 and 2 scores.  The run game didn’t come into play much, but the way the defense stepped up, they didn’t need help on the ground.  Jarius Byrd forced two of the Jets 4 turnovers, while Da’Norris Searcy returned his interception for a score.  The two teams split the season series, each winning at home.  (4-7)

AFC NORTH (The Bengals Pounce, Give Themselves A Big Cushion)

  • Bengals: Nothing like 31 unanswered 2nd quarter points (the largest output in a quarter in team history) to put a bad start behind you.  After losing two straight games in overtime, a rout was what this team needed to get back on track.  Andy Dalton shook off a bad start that saw two of his passes picked off in the 1st quarter, one returned for a score, to put them down 13-0 quick.  But he came back to throw 3 scores, but on just 93 yards passing. It was a good all around game, with both the defense and special teams finding the end-zone, with a fumble recovery and a blocked punt for a score.  (7-4) 
  • Steelers: Don’t look now but they’re technically not in last place anymore after a very slow start to the season.  Big Ben and company had their most impressive day on offense.  Ben Roethlisberger threw for 367 yards, 4 touchdowns and no turnovers.  Add 3 more field-goals for Shaun Suisham and it’s pretty easy to see why this team held off the Lions. (4-6)
  • Browns: They jumped out to a quick 13-0 score.  But then they fell apart on both offense and defense, and you can’t do that against a hungry team like Cincinnati. Jason Campbell threw 3 interceptions, Chris Ogbonnaya lost a fumble and their special teams allowed a score.  And despite creating a couple of turnovers of their own, they couldn’t get any real pressure on Dalton. (4-6)
  • Ravens: Justin Tucker’s 21-yard field goal forced over-time, but it wasn’t enough to save them from the loss. Baltimore jumped out to a quick 10-point lead thanks to a 1-yard Ray Rice touchdown run, and a Tucker 52-yard field goal in the 1st half. But then the weather delay happenedRice finished with his best total of the season, 131 yards and that score.  Joe Flacco ended with 162-yards passing, a touchdown and two interceptions, one of which was returned for 6.  It was a golden opportunity to move into a better spot for a possible wild card spot, instead they fall 3 games back of the division lead. (4-6)

AFC South  (Indy All But Has This Things Wrapped Up)

  • Colts: A slow start wasn’t enough to hand Indy their second straight loss, which would’ve been a first in the Chuck Pagano era.  Andrew Luck and company woke up in the 3rd quarter to rally from a 17-6 half-time deficit and get their 7th win.   The Colts got some much-needed help from Donald Brown, who ran in for two scores for the first time in his career.  Luck added an 11-yard scamper of his own.  Tight-end Coby Fleener had a career high 8 catches for 107 yards. (7-3)
  • Titans: Things looked good early, when Chris Johnson’s 30-yard and 7-yard touchdown runs in the 1st quarter put the Colts’ backs against the wall early.  But if you can’t turn over the Colts, or stop the run in the red zone, you’re in trouble.  Ryan Fitzpatrick had a good day in place of the injured Jake Locker, completing 22 of 28 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown.  But it wasn’t enough in the end.  They started off the season well, but have taken a turn for the worse as they’re losers of 2 straight and 5 of their last 6. (4-6)
  • Texans: Make it 8 straight losses.  Two early turnovers including Case Keenum’s first career interception gave the Raiders two quick drives from their own 16. Oakland scored on both turnovers and put Houston down 14-0 in the 1st.  But 17 unanswered points capped by a career-long 51-yard field goal by Randy Bullock had them up at the half.  Down 21-17 in the 3rd, Houston decided to remove a healthy Keenum for Matt Schaub, who hadn’t seen action since he went down in week 6.  (2-8)
  • Jaguars: They jumped out quick, but it wasn’t enough as they were shutout through the final 3 quarters.  They scored a touchdown (2 in fact) for the first time at home all season.  Maurice Jones-Drew only finished with 23 yards rushing on 14 carries, but he did have one of the two Jacksonville scores.  Chad Henne threw two picks, one touchdown.  The defense sacked Carson Palmer 3 times, but was unable to turn the Cardinals over.  (1-9)

AFC WEST (December is Going to Be Fun in the West)

  • Broncos: In the biggest game of the week, Denver put up the most points on KC of any opponent.  Peyton Manning wasn’t sharp, but the run game was huge in the red zone, while the defense did their best Chiefs impression, with a number of impressive stops and takeaways. Manning extended his record for 300 yard passing games to 81, but threw just one touchdown and lost a fumble in the process. Rookie running back Montee Ball had his best game of the season, capitalizing in the red zone by finding the endzone twice.  A huge reason for the good run game was the offensive line, which prevented a sack-happy defense from touching Manning all night.  They hold the end in the division, for now.  Their 2nd match-up comes in 2 weeks in KC. (9-1)
  • Chiefs: Alex Smith threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns as his team suffered their first loss of the season. They were in the game the whole night, but couldn’t find a way to get over the hump.  Dwayne Bowe had a 57-yards receiving and a` touchdown in a game he could have been out for days after being arrested for speeding and marijuana possession. The defense held down the potent Broncos defense for the most part, but it was still almost 15 points more than their opponents average.  Jaamal Charles had a good day on the ground, running for 78 at 4.9 yards a carry. (9-1)
  • Raiders: Matt McGloin made quite the impression in his first NFL start. 3 touchdowns (2 of which came on turnovers) and no interceptions for the former Penn State QB.  Rashad Jennings continues to make Oakland fans ask Darren McFadden who? with 150 yards and a rushing touchdown to help get his team their 4th win.  The defense forced 3 turnovers, and held late with a goal-line stand in the final seconds to stop the Texans comeback attempt. The win ensures they finish with a better win total than a year ago. (4-6)
  • Chargers: Forever the inconsistent team are these Chargers.  San Diego could only muster one touchdown, coming in the 1st quarter to fall for the 3rd straight game. They stayed in the game til the end thanks to 3 Nick Novak field goals.  But their possible game winning drive ended with an incomplete pass in the end zone.  Philip Rivers fell just short of 300 yards passing, with a touchdown and an interception.  Ryan Matthews was able to get back over 100 yards rushing, but was unable to find the end zone. (4-6)

That’s it.  Week 12 approaches as teams look to continue bettering their playoff positioning.

NFL: First Half Recap

So we’ve seen week 8 come and go, marking the unofficial halfway point of the season.

Sure some teams have already taken their bye, meaning they’ve only played 7 of their 16 game scheduled, but many have played 8.  So I figured I’d take a look back at my picks for the major awards and who was gonna win it all, and tell you who really won the 1st half of the season.

My Pre-season Division and Wild Card Winners

  • NFC: New York, Seattle, Green Bay, Atlanta, Dallas & New Orleans

Clearly I, was very off when I picked the Falcons and Giants to win their divisions.  Sure it could still happen, but it’s very unlikely as they sit in 3rd and 4th respectively.  But Seattle and Green Bay are both sitting pretty atop their respective divisions, and while Dallas and New Orleans aren’t wildcard times, they of course lead their divisions and would be playoff teams, as I thought they would be. I think the easiest division for me to pick had been the North.  But this has become of the of the bigger surprises for me, with both Detroit and Chicago right there heading into the second half.  The Saints, who I thought would be in a dog-fight with the Falcons all year for the South are coasting right now, but as we all know, a lot can happen in a short amount of time in the NFL.  If the playoffs started today, 4 of my 6 pick would make the playoffs.

  • AFC: Patriots, Denver, Baltimore, Houston, Cincinnati, and Indy

Here’s another case of getting the teams right (for the most part), just not picking them high enough.  Let’s talk about Indianapolis, who are showing they are a legit Superbowl contender, having knocked off three of the best teams in the league (Denver, Seattle and San Francisco), and easily at that.  I had them winning the a wild card spot, so I wasn’t really off, but I never thought they’d do this well again.  A lot of their success last year came in 4th quarter comebacks, something I didn’t see them replicating.  Denver I’m not wrong about, but my biggest shock might be in Kansas City.  I knew the Chiefs would be improved, never did I think they’d lead this division.  I figured they’d battle for a wild card.  But here they are the last undefeated team standing.  The Pats hold a slim lead, but things can change quickly if they’re not careful.  Baltimore and Houston have been big disappoints, while the Bengals defense has given them a nice lead in the North.  Just like in the NFC, 4 of my 6 picks would make the playoffs if they started today.

  • My AFC and NFC Championship games probably won’t end up quite the way I picked them, but my Superbowl pick of Denver over Seattle (sure call it chalk) does remain as a real possibility.

And how about my pre-season award winners?  Here is how some of my picks have changed.

Offensive Rookie of the Year:

  • I picked Texans Wide-receiver DeAndre Hopkins.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to Packers Running Back Eddie Lacy, who I put down as an honorable mention.  He’s given the Packers another option on offense, which just makes them more dangerous.

Offensive Player of the Year:

  • I picked Lions WR Calvin Johnson.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to Broncos QB Peyton Manning, another pre-season honorable mention by me.  How could he not be the guy right now? Look at his stats: 29 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. He’s completing nearly 72% of his passes and has only been sacked 11 times in 8 games.  Sure he’s got a lot of weapons but he’s also finding them and making all the throws.  But to be fair to Megatron, he’s having an insane year yet again.

Defensive Player of the Year:

  • I picked Bengals Defensive Tackle Geno Atkins.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to the Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali.  This guy has done a little bit of everything.  4 forced fumbles, 23 tackles, a pick 6 and 9 sacks.
  • Other possibilities: Bills MLB Kiko Alonso, Seahawks CB Earl Thomas or Chiefs OLB Justin Houston.

Most Valuable Player:

  • I picked Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to Colts QB Andrew Luck.  This guy has shown he was the right guy to take number 1 last year.  He can outplay the best of them, and can put early game struggles behind him to help his team late.  His numbers aren’t flashy, but he takes care of the ball and is a true leader.
  • Other possibilities: Broncos QB Peyton Manning, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and Lions WR Calvin Johnson.

Coach of the Year:

  • I picked Seahawks Pete Carroll.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid.  When you turn a 2 win team into an undefeated team halfway through the season, you’re going to be considered for awards.
  • Other possibilities: Bengals Marvin Lewis, Colts Chuck Pagano and Panthers Juan Rivera.

And finally my biggest surprises good and bad of the first half.

Biggest Disappointment – Team

  • Houston Texans: This is a team I saw as one of the last two standing in the AFC.  With a running back tandem like Arian Foster and Ben Tate, with a very good defense that got back Brian Cushing to play along side last year’s defensive player of the year in JJ Watt, I thought it was time for this team to take that next step.  But Matt Schaub has regressed, and is now injured, and TJ Yates didn’t do much better backing him up.
  • Dis-Honorable Mention: New York Giants – They collapsed in the 2nd half of 2012, and have carried that bad play into 2013.  Injuries have ravaged the o-line, secondary and running back position, but they still have too many weapons to be just 2-6 in the first half.

Biggest Disappointment – Offensive Player

  • Ravens RB Ray Rice: This is a guy who is usually atop the rushing yards leader board.  But a year removed from helping his team win the Superbowl, Rice hasn’t done much to help his team, and it’s a big reason why they’re just a 2-win team coming out of their bye.  At 26, there should still be something left in the tank, but he hasn’t been producing.  He’s been very good in his career after the bye, so maybe the extra time off will help get him back on track.
  • Dis-Honorable Mention: Redskins QB Robert Griffin III – It might not be fair to say this, as the mobile quarterback is coming off a serious knee injury that knocked him out of the playoffs last year.  But if you’re going to let him play, that means he’s healthy, which means we should be seeing more consistency from last years Rookie of the Year.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise – Team

  • Carolina Panthers: This team is riding on the high of a 3 game win streak that saw their offense put up 30+ points again, and the defense limit its opponents to 13.7 points a game, 2nd only to KC.  This team hadn’t been over .500 since before Cam Newton was drafted.  They are 2nd in a division where the Falcons play.  That means something.
  • Honorable Mention: Kansas City Chiefs – 2 and 14 to 8 and 0.  A sack happy, shutdown defense.  A good run game.  A quarterback who is very good at game management. They get honorable mention because despite a bad record a year ago, this team sent 6 players to the pro bowl, so the turnaround isn’t a huge surprise. This team is primed for a postseason run.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise – Player

  • Cowboys LB Sean Lee: This guy has a nose for the football, tied for 1st in the NFL with four interceptions, one of which he returned for a score.  He also has the most return yards of a defensive player.  He’s also defended 10 passes, recovered a fumble and has a combined 81 tackles.
  • Honorable Mention: Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor – His team only has 3 wins, and his numbers aren’t great, but after a few years of disappointment, he’s shown glimpses. First of all, those 3 wins match Oakland’s win total from a year ago.  He can run with the best of the mobile quarterbacks.  And he wasn’t even supposed to be the starter. Matt Flynn was brought in, and Pryor just flat-out beat him for the job.

So there you have it.  That was fun, looking back at what I thought preseason and seeing how it’s panning out.  Of course there’s still a whole lot of football to be played, and everything I wrote here (or almost everything) could be meaningless come week 9 or 10.   But that’s the beauty of the gridiron, nothing stays the same for long.  So win, lose or draw, let’s go out and enjoy the 2nd half of the 2013 season as much as we did the 1st half.

NFL: Week 7 Thoughts

Through 7 weeks, we’re down to 2 win-less teams, while just 1 undefeated squad remains.

New Orleans and Oakland had their byes.

I know it’s the NFL, and injuries are apart of the game, but this week seemed to contain a lot more season ending ones than normal.

NFC EAST (We Have a Winning Team Atop the Division)

  • Cowboys: Despite many injuries, the defense came to play.  They harassed Nick Foles all day, then knocked him out late in the 3rd quarter with an injury.  Not to mention holding a high octane offense in Philly to under 300 yards of total offense.  A decent day on the ground without DeMarco Murray, along with just enough from Tony Romo and a Phillip Tanner TD run, means a winning record and an NFC East lead all to themselves.  Dallas is also now 3-0 in the division.  (4-3)
  • Eagles: Down two quarterbacks following a head injury to Nick Foles, Matt Barkley saw his first action, and it wasn’t a great debut.   Three interceptions, no touchdowns for the fourth round pick out of USC.  The defense did all they could against the Cowboys, picking off Romo twice, and holding him to one touchdown.  The score was just 3-0 boys at the half. (3-4)
  • Redskins:  A good day for the offense, with both Alfred Morris and RGIII running for over 80 yards a piece.  Add 298 yards and 2TDs from Griffin to that against a take-a-way happy Bears defense.  But this day belonged to Roy Helu Jr, who scored 3 touchdowns, including the game winner with 45 seconds left.  Rookie tight-end Jordan Reed had a big day as well, catching 9 passes for a 134-yards including getting into the end-zone once. (2-4)
  • Giants: It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win, New York’s first of the season.  For the third straight game, the Giants defense shutdown a top 5 running back, this time the reigning MVP.  And for the first time this season, the defense pitched a shutout, forcing three Vikings turnovers to their one.  This while Eli Manning finally played turnover free football.  That’s not to say the Giants QB looked great.  There were a couple missed picks by the Vikings, to go with some poorly thrown balls and drops, but a turnover free day from the offense is something this team desperately needed.  Ruben Randle did lose a fumble on special teams, but made up for it with a 24-yard touchdown catch.  Peyton Hillis made an immediate impact running the ball, as did rookie Michael Cox, even if the numbers don’t show it.  Philly’s up next before their bye week. (1-6)

NFC NORTH (New Leader, But Still Crowded at the Top)

  • Packers: Aaron Rodgers and company got off to a fast start against Cleveland, leading 14-0 after the 1st quarter, and they never let up.  Rodgers threw for 3 touchdowns, while rookie back Eddie Lacy added another on the ground.  They’ve leaped back into first, but it came with a cost.  Tight-end Jermichael Finley, who was getting more targets with the loss of Randall Cobb, was carted off the field in the 2nd half after a big helmet-to-helmet hit.  As of Monday night, Finley was out of the ICU, had movement in his extremities, and is out indefinitely. (4-2)
  • Lions: Matthew Stafford had a big day, thanks in large part to his favorite target.  He hooked up with Calvin Johnson to the tune of two touchdowns and 155 yards.  Stafford ended up over 300 yards, something a passer hadn’t done to the Bengals in 20 games.  But it wasn’t enough, as rookie punter Sam Martin shanked a kick late in the game, which set up a Cincy game winning field-goal as time expired. (4-3)
  • Bears:  Devin Hester and Matt Forte were the stars.  Hester tied an NFL record with his 19th return touchdown, an 81-yard punt return in the 1st half.  Forte ran in for two touchdowns, including a 50-yarder in the 3rd quarter.  But the defense had no answer for RGIII and the Redskins, and it didn’t help when they lost Jay Cutler to a groin injury late in the 1st half.   They held two short lived leads, including 41-38 late, but it’s hard to win when you allow nearly 500 yards of total offense.  (4-3)
  • Vikings: How Josh Freeman is their best option is quarterback astounds me, but maybe we give the guy a break, as he learns a new system.  But what I really want to know is how a game changer like Adrian Peterson only ran the ball 13 times. I get the Giants did a good job stopping him, but he’s the type of back that no matter how a game is going, can rip a long one.  And this was a close game throughout.  That being said, without a special teams touchdown, there’d be no real positives for this team.  Sure they didn’t do terribly on defense, but they also missed a couple opportunities. (1-4)

NFC SOUTH (It’s Still All About the Big Easy)

  • Saints: Bye Week. (5-1)
  • Panthers: Another good day from Cam Newton and their defense helped Carolina double up the Rams 30-15.  Newton didn’t put up big numbers, throwing for just over 200 yards, but was accurate and smart with the football.  The run game was adequate with Newton teaming up with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert to combine for over 100 yards on the ground.  The defense forced two turnovers, racked up 4 sacks and knocked the Rams Sam Bradford from the game. (3-3)
  • Falcons:  Harry Douglas was huge in the absence of Julio Jones and Roddy White.  The 5th year pro had seven receptions for a career-best 149 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown catch.  The Bucs made it interesting but the defense had its moments, like when safety Williams Moore sacked Mike Glennon to force a fumble on Tampa Bay’s first possession. Safety Thomas DeCoud added a 30-yard TD on a fumble recovery.  It was a much needed win for a team many thought had chances at a Superbowl run. (2-4)
  • Buccaneers: The offense had probably it’s best game of the year, and had a chance in the 4th, but couldn’t muster more than 2 field-goals in the final period.  Vincent Jackson continues to put up big numbers, grabbing 10 balls for 138-yards and 2 scores.  But in a winless year, things got worse.  Tampa Lost star running back Doug Martin for the year to a torn labrum.  (0-6)

NFC WEST (The Hawks Continue to Fly Higher than the Rest)

  • Seahawks: They never trailed Sunday against Arizona, but didn’t pull away until the 2nd half.  Seattle played well on both sides of the football.  Their defense picked off Carson Palmer twice and dropped the Cards QB 7 times.  The offense turned both those turnovers into touchdowns as a part of a 3 score day for Russell Wilson.  Wilson did fumble twice, but a fourth touchdown on the ground by Marshawn Lynch helped the hawks pull away.  Wide-receiver Sidney Rice found the endzone for the 3rd time in 2013. (6-1)
  • 49ers: The score says they only won by 14, but their fourth straight victory was never really close.  Up 17-0 at halftime, it took until the 4th for Tennessee to do anything productive on offense.  Colin Kaepernick wasn’t at his best in the air, but on the ground, him and Frank Gore did work.  Kaepernick found paydirt once, while Gore scored two rushing TDs.  The 49ers special teams added a score, when Kassim Osgood recovered a muffed punt for a touchdown.  (4-2)
  • Rams:  Sam Bradford was carted off late in the 4th, and it was revealed that he did in fact tear his ACL, and is lost for the season.  But the game was basically over by then thanks in large part to penalties.  St Louis was flagged for five personal fouls alone, and defensive end Chris Long was ejected for throwing a punch.  Turnovers and a lack of a ground game didn’t help. (3-4)
  • Cardinals: They kept it close early, but couldn’t avoid losing their 7th divisional game.  With absolutely no help on the ground, Palmer was forced to throw the ball 45 times, and managed just one touchdown and two interceptions.  Palmer did manage to spread the completions around, with 9 players registering receptions.  Jay Feely had a good day kicking the ball, going 3-3 on his field-goals, with a long of 52. (3-4)

AFC EAST (We Have a Race)

  • Patriots: They rallied late in the 4th to force overtime, but a new league penalty call helped set up New York’s game winner.   Chris Jones was called for and unsportsmanlike conduct for pushing a teammate forward in an attempt to block the kick.  But the game only went to overtime after New England rallied in the 4th after allowing the Jets to score 17 unanswered in the 3rd.  For the 2nd time in 3 games, Tom Brady didn’t throw a touchdown, and threw a pick 6 in the first half.  It was the run game and the leg of Stephen Gostkowski that gave them a chance in overtime.  Rob Gronkowski had a big day in his season debut, catching 8 Brady passes for 114-yards.  (5-2)
  • Jets: A risky 56-yard field goal attempt in overtime almost gave New England a chance to win it.  But the penalty on Jones gave New York new life, and Nick Folk an easier attempt from 42, which he nailed.  Geno Smith has yet to lose 2 straight games thanks to their overtime win against the Pats. Chris Ivory with over 100 yards on the ground. (4-3)
  • Dolphins: It wasn’t the performance you want coming out of your bye week.  Down 14-0 early, they managed to take the lead heading into the 4th quarter, but a turnover late set up a game winner for Buffalo.  Ryan Tannehill threw 3 touchdowns to lead the comeback, but his three turnovers (two interceptions) led to two Bills scores.  After starting out the season 3-0, the fins need to figure some stuff out in an improved division and quick. (3-3)
  • Bills: The defense won the game for Buffalo.  Rookie defensive back Nickell Robey’s pick six on the 3rd play of the game helped them build a big 1st quarter lead.  After blowing that 14-0 lead, Mario Williams had the play of the game, a sack forced fumble set up the game winning field goal but none other than former Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter.  Carpenter was released by Miami in August. The win snapped a 6 game road losing streak.  (3-4)

AFC NORTH (The Cats Have Come to Play)

  • Bengals: It wasn’t easy, but they did just enough to outlast a high-powered Lions offense.  Andy Dalton had a good day, showing he can go deep with an early 82-yard TD strike to AJ Green, as apart of a 3 touchdown, 372-yard passing day.  Dalton needed a big day in the air, because he got very little help on the ground.  Taking advantage of a short field in regulation, Dalton got into field-goal range, and Mike Nugent kicked the game winner, a 54-yard field-goal as time expired.  It was a big win, putting some distance between them and the rest of the league, with both Baltimore and Cleveland losing.  It’s also their 2nd straight road win. (5-2) 
  • Ravens: Another day, another close game doesn’t go their way.  They managed to come back and tie the Steelers in the 4th, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a 3rd loss in their last 4.  The defense did it’s job, holding Pittsburgh to mostly field-goals.  But once again Ray Rice did nothing on the ground, while Joe Flacco didn’t do much good or bad in the passing game.  Justin Tucker continues to be their only consistent offense, going 3-3 on field-goal attempts to keep it close.  (3-4)
  • Browns: Brandon Weedon with another bad start since returning from injury.  Cleveland’s QB went just 17-for-42 for 149 yards, a touchdown and an interception.  The Packers offense was just too much for their defense, which had been rounding into form during their 3 game win streak. Yet another case of a team not getting steady production on the ground, which puts the onus on the quarterback to throw more.  (3-4)
  • Steelers: Shaun Suisham’s leg was the hero, hitting all four of his field-goal attempts, including the 42-yard game winner as time expired.  Rookie rusher Le’Veon Bell ran for a career high 98 yards.  The defense only dropped Flacco once, but did a good job stopping the run.  It’s their 2nd straight win after starting the season 0-4. (2-4)

AFC South  (Luck Has Everything To Do With It)

  • Colts: This team continues to show they’re for real.  They have no defeated the Seahawks, 49ers and Broncos, and by an average of over 10 points.  It’s hard to win any games against Denver, let alone in Peyton Manning’s return to Indy.  But Manning’s replacement shows more and more why he was the number 1 pick in last years draft.  Andrew Luck was on point, An MRI confirmed that iconic wide-out Reggie Wayne is done for the year with a torn ACL suffered in Sunday night’s win.  (5-2)
  • Titans: Jake Locker’s return wasn’t enough to save Tennessee from a 2nd straight loss.  The offense couldn’t do anything until the 4th quarter, but by then it was too late.  Another week, another lack of production from Chris Johnson on the ground, though he did have a nice showing in the pass game.  Locker threw for 326-yards, but was sacked 3 times and picked off once in his return from injury. (3-4)
  • Texans:  Making a bad season worse, Houston is now on a 5- game losing streak, and saw both of their tailbacks go down.  Arian Foster left in the 1st quarter with a hamstring, then Ben Tate went down early in the 3rd, but he would return.  They also saw Brian Cushing go down with a left knee injury.  The defense got their first take away, a fumble recovery, since week 4 against Seattle,  One of the few positives was the play of Case Keenum at quarterback.  He looked steady all game, spreading the ball to many different players, and he didn’t throw any picks, something unique to Texans QBs this season.   But little protection late led to a lot of drive killing sacks, as well as the final one on a potential game winning drive which resulted in a lost fumble.  But look for Keenum to get another shot after throwing for more yards in a debut by a Texans quarterback. (2-5)
  • Jaguars:  According to NFL.com, their the first team since the 1984 Houston Oilers to lose every game of the season (played so far) by double digits.  The Oilers opened the season losing their first 10 this way.  After a decent showing against Denver, the offense couldn’t do much of anything.  Chad Henne wasn’t awful, throwing for over 300 yards, but he couldn’t find the end-zone, and threw one interception.  Maurice Jones-Drew and the run game was non-existent once again.  (0-7) 

AFC WEST (And Then There Was One)

  • Chiefs: Don’t look now, but a 2-win team from last season now stands as the last undefeated team and the division leaders.  Jamaal Charles ran for 86-yards and a score, while Alex Smith added a rushing score of his own.  They got one of their tougher tests from a desperate Texans team, but a strip sack with under two to play by Tamba Hali on rookie quarterback Case Keenum sealed the one point victory.  (7-0)
  • Broncos: They let the Colts jump out early, and they just couldn’t recover.  Peyton Manning sure tried to get his team to 7-0, and it looked like it would work.  But an interception and a fumble in the fourth quarter meant Denver just didn’t have enough time to complete a comeback.  They were down as many as 19, but managed to close the final deficit to 6. Eric Decker went for a season high 150 yards and a touchdown, while the run game continues to force Manning to throw nearly 50 passes. The loss ended their undefeated season and snapped a 17-game regular season win streak.  And just like that, they’re not even in first anymore thanks to a great start by KC.  (6-1)
  • Chargers: Ryan Matthews with his second straight 100 yard rushing game, while finding the endzone twice.  Phillip Rivers with a good day, going over 30,000 yards passing for his career.  The defense did exactly what it should against a team like Jacksonville.  They kept the pressure on them and held the Jags to just a pair of field-goals.  (4-3)
  • Raiders: Bye Week. (2-4)

So that’s it.  Week 8 is upon us.  It gets started in Tampa Bay on Thursday, where Mike Glennon hopes to lead his team to their first win of the year, while Cam Newton hopes to lead his team to a 3rd straight victory.  Enjoy it everyone.