We have reached the halfway point of the season and as I predicted, we all have no clue what is going on. Case in point, the Redskins shocking victory over the Cowboys this past Monday night. Dallas was a heavy favorite, and nobody gave the Redskins any chance to win the game. I only picked them because I wanted them to win. Not because I thought they had any chance. Jim Haslett came up with a brilliant game plan, confusing Tony Romo and the Cowboys offensive line all night with their blitz scheme. The NFL is a matchup league. What happened last week or last month means nothing going forward. But I’m going to pick these games anyway.
Chargers (+ 2 ½) over DOLPHINS. San Diego is coming off a long week since they played last Thursday night. The extra rest should offset the long flight east and the early kickoff. Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense struggled last week against Jacksonville. That game would have been much closer had the Dolphins defense not scored two touchdowns. Phillip Rivers has been playing great all season, and are the better team. Getting points is just a bonus.
BENGALS (- 10 ½) over Jaguars. AJ Green is back this week for the Bengals, but Gio Bernard is out. Jeremy Hill is stepping in for Cincinnati, and should be able to produce enough to keep the defense honest. Blake Bortles continues to struggle and make poor decisions as he adjusts to life in the NFL. This game could get ugly in a hurry.
Buccaneers (+ 6 ½) over BROWNS. You know pretty early in the game what you are getting from Tampa Bay. Four of their six losses have been decided by 6 points or less, and two of them went to overtime. Sans a blowout win over the Steelers, Cleveland has also played in many close games all season. Last week’s win over the Raiders was a 10 point victory, but that game was 9-6 deep into the third quarter and could have gone either way. This three game stretch for Cleveland (at Jax, vs Oak, vs Tampa) was supposed to be where the Browns showed the world they were back. They haven’t showed me that yet. I expect a close, low scoring, possibly sloppy game. The Browns will likely win, but it won’t be easy.
REDSKINS (+ 1) over Vikings. Robert Griffin III returns for the Redskins as they try to salvage their season. The defense looked exceptional in holding Dallas to only 17 points Monday night. They have a bye after this, so there won’t be any looking ahead either. Minnesota didn’t show me anything in their win over Tampa Bay last week, as they continue to play low scoring games. The key to beating the Vikings is jumping to a lead early. If you can get up 10 to 14 points in the first quarter, then you can feast on Teddy Bridgewater and cruise to victory.
TEXANS (+ 1 ½) over Eagles. A home team pick here. The Eagles should have beaten the Cardinals last week, but two long touchdown passes doomed them. Nick Foles took advantage of the injury to Patrick Peterson and threw all over Arizona. I expect the sledding to be a little tougher this week against a very good Texans defense. Ryan FItzpatrick needs to limit his mistakes, and feed Arian Foster all day long. Houston’s best chance is to keep this game in the low 20’s. They will not win a shootout.
Jets (+ 9 ½) over CHIEFS. Just a hunch that Michael Vick comes to play. The Chiefs blew out St. Louis last week, but that game was 10-7 at halftime. Kansas City feasted on turnovers in the second half. If Rex Ryan wants to continue to be an NFL coach, he better have preached ball safety in practice all week. If the Jets don’t turn the ball over, then this game will be close like the Patriots game two weeks ago, instead of the disaster that was the Buffalo game last week.
Cardinals (+ 3 ½) over COWBOYS. The status of Tony Romo hangs over this game. He has not practiced all week, and is a “game time decision” for Sunday’s game. If Romo is out, Arizona should have no problem confusing Brandon Weeden. If he does play, Romo’s mobility will be severely hampered. This is the perfect time to play Dallas, and Arizona should take advantage.
49ERS (-10) over Rams. St. Louis had a 7-0 lead last week before the wheels fell off, and I believe the Rams could keep this game close. But every other factor here points to the 49ers. San Fran is home, they just had their bye so they are rested, they are healthier, and they know who their running back is. Until the Rams settle on a running back, they will struggle. Jeff Fisher has said he wants to go with the hot hand. That never works. No matter the sport, if you don’t have enough faith in one guy, then you don’t have anyone you can count on. Tre Mason, Sac Stacy, or Benny Cunningham? Pick your poison. Or if you’re the 49ers, pick whatever one you will dominate.
PATRIOTS (+ 3) over Broncos. I just can’t not take the points with Tom Brady. The weather is supposed to be cold and windy, which also plays into New England’s hands. Until recently, the Patriots have always had Peyton Manning’s number, including a victory in the regular season last year. This will be the marquee game of the day, and it should come down to the final possession. Because they’re home, I’m going with the Pats.
SEAHAWKS (-14 ½) over Raiders. We figured out last week that the Seahawks have settled back to their 2012 selves. Average to below on the road. That 2012 team was also unbeatable at home. The Seahawks haven’t played a terrific game since the week one blowout of Green Bay. Since they they lost at San Diego, needed overtime to beat Denver, beat Washington in a closer than necessary game, lost to Dallas, lost to the Rams, and barely beat Carolina. People are starting to talk about Seattle. It’s not just a Super Bowl hangover anymore. This is where the Seahawks stand up, remind everyone that they are the defending champions, and stop Oakland by 35 points.
STEELERS (+1 ½) over Ravens. This game will be a field goal either way. This game will be hard hitting and low scoring. I’m just taking the home team and the better quarterback.
GIANTS (+3) over Colts. Andrew Luck this, Andrew Luck that. That’s all I’ve heard all week. He doesn’t have two bad games in a row. He’s winning the Colts to victories. He will soon be the best QB in the league. All of those things may actually be true, but the whole narrative leading up to Monday’s game has been about him. The Giants are being ignored. They are an afterthought in this game. Nobody is talking about them, or giving them a chance to win. I’ve followed the Giants long enough to know. When everybody is picking them, they lay an egg. When they have been written off, they rise to the occasion. That’s what is going to happen Monday night. Giants for the outright win in my upset special.
BEST BET: Seattle (1-1 on season)
LAST WEEK: 9-5