Total and complete domination.

fletcherThat’s what we saw on Sunday in Green Bay. The Philadelphia Eagles, leaders of the NFC East, were utterly eviscerated by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in front of a packed Lambeau Field crowd, 53-20. This game was never even close. The Packers, with their four Super Bowl titles, made the Eagles’ defense look like the NFL equivalent of the Bad News Bears. The offense, hampered by turnovers, wasn’t much better. At one point, I was pretty sure Chip Kelly’s head was going to explode.

But, this is the NFL. If one focuses too much on the failures of the past, the future will turn too dim to see.

This weekend, the Eagles get the good fortune of what some would call a “tomato can” opponent. That is, someone that the Eagles should fully dent, ding, and dismantle. That’s because the Tennessee Titans come to town for a 1:00 PM start at Lincoln Financial Field. The Titans, far from their glory days of Steve McNair and Eddie George, come into this week’s affair with a 2-8 record. Their defense can’t stop the run (though we heard that about Green Bay, as well) and the offense is led by a sixth round rookie. Anything less than a blowout victory will likely result in the city of Philadelphia’s immediate destruction. I kid the City of Brotherly Love. After all, if they didn’t burn the city to the ground after the 2002 NFC Championship Game, then nothing will send them to Vancouver type levels of despair.

hi-res-ee235b0914cb5dcc07dac48060263c45_crop_northStill, the psyche of the Philadelphia fanbase is teetering on edge. They know what daunting tasks lay ahead of their team. Following their matchup with Tennessee, the Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys twice and the defending champion Seattle Seahawks all in the course of 17-days. That’s a whole lot of talent that Philadelphia has to regroup for. Thankfully, two of those games will be played at home, where the Eagles are a perfect 5-0 this season.

Philadelphia should have no problem for Tennessee. While the Titans looked decent in losing 27-24 to Pittsburgh on Monday; it’s well documented that the Steelers play down to their opponents (losses to Tampa Bay and New York). Zach Mettenberger will make a plethora of mistakes, and those problems are undoubtedly going to lead to Eagles points. Expect a solid, bounce back performance from Philadelphia.

It’s what comes after this Sunday that Philadelphia fans are worried about.

Line: Eagles by 11
Prediction: Eagles, 41-17.

Let’s see if I can recover…

Last Week: 4-10
Best Pick: Bengals over Saints, 33-24
2014 Season: 71-70

Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) AT Oakland Raiders (0-10) – Chiefs by 7.5

Prediction: Chiefs, 24-7. Am I dreaming with the spread being this low. If I were a gambler (ahem), I’d be putting a solid amount of money on KC here. I know Thursday night is fluky. But, it’s the 0-10 Raiders against a Chiefs team that just beat the Seahawks. I know it’s a short week and there’s a chance for a letdown. But, this is still a big rivalry and the black hole is just that, sucking all the talent out of the Raiders. Chiefs and this is my stone cold mortal lock.

Cleveland Browns (6-4) AT Atlanta Falcons (4-6) – Falcons by 3.5

Prediction: Falcons, 20-17. I don’t love the half-point here. Falcons are a very good home team, even though their 2-2 record wouldn’t suggest it. Meanwhile, Cleveland just lost to Houston and Ryan Mallett on Sunday. The Browns are the more complete team. But, they’re still from Cleveland. It would be a real Browns move to continue the second half swoon by putting the suddenly soaring Falcons closer to respectability (and keep their hold on first place in the NFC South).

Detroit Lions (7-3) AT New England Patriots (8-2) – Patriots by 7

RobGrnkPrediction: Patriots, 21-17. People in New England are sleeping on the Lions similarly to the way teams would sleep on the Browns. Detroit doesn’t exactly have the greatest of track records, and I don’t think they go into Foxboro and beat the Patriots. However, I do like their defense, primarily the defensive line. New England’s line had trouble at times last week and has been average most of the year. Most of Detroit’s games seem to go down to the wire. So, why should this be any different.

Green Bay Packers (7-3) AT Minnesota Vikings (4-6) – Packers by 10

Prediction: Packers, 27-16. Green Bay at home is a little different than Green Bay on the road. Still, the Vikings’ offense hasn’t gelled this season. That’s not surprising considering the fact that they lost their best player (Adrian Peterson) and have gotten subpar QB play (Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater). That won’t chance against the Packers, who are suddenly very close to being in first place and grabbing a potential bye week in the playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) AT Indianapolis Colts (6-4) – Colts by 14

Prediction: Colts, 30-13. Jacksonville comes into this one 0-5 on the road and winless in the AFC South. The Jaguars haven’t been dumpster fires over the last few weeks. But, their offense has scored more than 17-points only twice all season. I don’t really see that changing against a Colts team that got embarrassed at times by the Patriots last week. Andrew Luck will have a huge day, as usual.

Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1) AT Houston Texans (5-5) – Texans by 1.5

Prediction: Bengals, 24-20. Really? The Texans are the favorites in this game? Cincinnati is the much better team and this game is at 1:00 PM, so Andy Dalton won’t wet his pants. Ryan Mallett had a nice debut against the Browns. But, he’ll find Cleveland’s Ohio neighbors to be less kind.

 New York Jets (2-8) AT Buffalo Bills (5-5) – Bills by 4

Prediction: Bills, 23-17. The location, date, and time of this game is subject to change. The torrential snowstorm in the Niagara area being the reason for that. However, little makes me think that the lowly Jets can go on the road (0-4 this season) and beat a Bills team clinging to their playoff lives.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) AT Chicago Bears (4-6) – Bears by 6

Prediction: Bears, 27-17. Chicago’s offense finally showed glimpses of their former success last week. If they hope to make a run at the playoffs, the Bears will need that to continue for Jay Cutler. If they want to beat the Buccaneers, the Bears probably just have to show up on Sunday. Granted, both of Tampa’s wins have come on the road this season. But, I think last weekend’s blowout of Washington was probably the pinnacle of their 2014 campaign.

Arizona Cardinals (9-1) AT Seattle Seahawks (6-4) – Seahawks by 7

Prediction: Seahawks, 23-20. This spread seems entirely one-sided considering the records and trajectory of each team coming into this weekend. Granted, Seattle has been thoroughly predictable (4-1 at home, 2-3 on the road). But, it’s Arizona that continues to shock the world, winning games even without Carson Palmer’s leadership. I think they’ll have trouble coming out of Seattle with a victory for the second straight season. But, covering a way too large 7 point spread shouldn’t be a problem.

St. Louis Rams (4-6) AT San Diego Chargers (6-4) – Chargers by 4.5

Prediction: Chargers, 16-10. San Diego’s offense hasn’t exactly been awe-inspiring of late. They’re also facing a Rams defense that limited Peyton Manning and the Broncos to 7 points last week. But, that was at home, and St. Louis is a much better team when they’re playing inside the dome. Philip Rivers and the Chargers know this is a critical game if they hope to grab an AFC Wild Card. They’ll hold on.

Miami Dolphins (6-4) AT Denver Broncos (7-3) – Broncos by 7.5

Denver Broncos v St. Louis RamsPrediction: Broncos, 30-20. I know that Denver hasn’t looked very good their last three weeks (1-2 over that span). But, they return home in week 12, where they haven’t lost all season. Miami, meanwhile, has been a solid road team this season. I think they’ll manage to keep this one close enough to make it a worthwhile watch. But, Peyton and Co. are just too powerful on offense.

Washington Redskins (3-7) AT San Francisco 49ers (6-4) – San Francisco by 9.5

Prediction: 49ers, 26-14. The Redskins are an absolute mess. Infighting and inconsistency has Jay Gruden’s seat getting warmer by the day. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is used to that feeling. Though, with a win, his team will be right in the thick of the wild card race. Expect the 49ers’ solid defense to limit the hapless Redskins all evening.

Dallas Cowboys (7-3) AT New York Giants (3-7) – Cowboys by 3.5

Prediction: Cowboys, 27-23. This spread is pretty low. But, it’s a divisional game on the road in the cold. Dallas has had some problems with those in the past. I don’t think the Cowboys will be tripped up on Sunday by a reeling Giants team. But, their real problems begin four days later, when they have to return home on short, short rest to take on the Eagles for the lead in the NFC East.

Baltimore Ravens (6-4) AT New Orleans Saints (4-6) – Saints by 3

Prediction: Ravens, 25-23. This is the third consecutive game that New Orleans has been favored at home despite their pathetic performances there. I reckon that trend will continue. The Ravens are coming off of their bye and should be refreshed. Expect a big day from Joe Flacco, who has quietly put together a solid campaign.

sprolesHome cooking has been delectably sweet for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014. With a record of 5-0 at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles have met and exceeded every expectation of the pundits and the fans. After their 45-21, Monday night massacre of the Carolina Panthers, Mark Sanchez and Co. are riding high and on top of the NFC East. This despite ranking second to last in the NFL in turnover ratio and red zone percentage.

Sanchez, tossed to the wolves by the New York Jets and the Big Apple media, has reestablished himself as a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s high tempo offense. The 2009 1st round pick is more mobile than Nick Foles, while still possessing the poise and moxie than helped him lead the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games earlier in his career. He, along with Darren Sproles (who scored two touchdowns Monday) and Jordan Matthews (two of his own) have proven to be critical offseason pickups as the Eagles continue to fly along without the maligned DeSean Jackson.

Perhaps the most surprising improvement Philadelphia has made this season is in their pass rush. The Eagles are now atop the league in sacks, a fact thought impossible prior to the season, especially with rookie 1st round pick Marcus Smith II held to goose eggs in that category. Conor Barwin (10.5 sacks) and Trent Cole (4.5) leading the way, Philadelphia’s defense continues to wreak havoc on opposing teams. They’re still susceptible to the big play. But, the Eagles’ improvement in that facet of the game is a real testament to Howie Roseman and Bill Davis.

This week, the Eagles will face their stiffest test yet as they travel to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field for a battle with the rodgerspackGreen Bay Packers. At 6-3, the Pack are resting right outside the playoff field. But, Aaron Rodgers is coming off of a 6-touchdown performance, and Green Bay’s offensive balance has gotten much more equal as the season has gone on. While Philly’s run defense has been brilliant, stopping the burly Eddie Lacy is a task best left to imagination.

With weapons like Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Jarrett Boykin, Rodgers will have plenty of tools with which to dissect the Eagles’ defense. Meanwhile, Green Bay’s defensive unit had a field day in their blowout win against Chicago. But, that’s not to say that they’re without serious flaw. The Packers’ run defense has ranked in the bottom-3 for most of the season, and that’s unlikely to improve against the Eagles’ running attack and healthy offensive line.

In the end, this promises to be yet another exciting matchup involving Philadelphia. Hence why the game was flexed by Fox into their America’s Game of the Week slot at 4:15 PM. After going with the Eagles all season, Skood Sports is finally siding with the bad guys. While I think the Eagles could win this game, going on the road and beating Aaron Rodgers is something few teams do. It’s also something Philadelphia has never done.

Line: Packers -6.5
Prediction: Packers, 34-30

Now, on to the rest of week 11…

Last Week: 5-8
Best Pick: Dallas, 31-17
2014 Season: 67-60

Buffalo Bills (5-4) AT Miami Dolphins (5-4) – Dolphins -4.5

Prediction: Dolphins, 24-17. I have zero faith in Buffalo’s offense, on a short week, to come up with anything resembling and NFL gameplan. The Bills under Kyle Orton have become very hit-or-miss. Meanwhile, the Dolphins may be hitting their stride at the right time. Despite a tough loss last week, Miami can be right in the thick of the AFC playoff race with a win at home.

Minnesota Vikings (4-5) AT Chicago Bears (3-6) – Chicago -3.5

Prediction: Vikings, 24-21. Remind me again why Chicago is favored here? The Bears have looked like cubs for basically the entire season. They’re also pathetic at home (0-3) and facing a Vikings team coming off of their bye week. Give me Teddy Bridgewater over Jay Cutler as Marc Trestman’s Chicago career continues to go down the tubes.

Houston Texans (4-5) AT Cleveland Browns (6-3) – Browns -3.5

Prediction: Browns, 26-20. Cleveland is 4-1 at home this season. They’re also facing a QB in Ryan Mallett who is making his first career start. That doesn’t bode well for the Texans, who need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. A banged up Arian Foster will get some vigor back in his legs after their bye week. But, it probably won’t be enough.

Seattle Seahawks (6-3) AT Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) – Chiefs -2

Prediction: Seahawks, 19-14. This is a classic, old school battle of two teams with impenetrable defenses and fierce running games. A lot of pundits are drinking the Kansas City Kool-Aid, and not only because Andy Reid looks like the Kool-Aid man in his red Chiefs’ jumpsuit. I like both of these teams. But, I think Russell Wilson is going to be the difference in what should be a stellar affair.

Atlanta Falcons (3-6) AT Carolina Panthers (3-6-1) – Falcons -1

Prediction: Falcons, 28-25. There’s nothing pretty about the 2014 NFC South. A pair of teams with 3 wins after 10 weeks are still right in the thick of things. The sad part is that one of these also-rans is going to host a playoff game against a team with a better record. Regardless, neither of these teams can afford another loss in the division, and after watching Cam Newton last week against Philadelphia, I cannot bring myself to pick the Panthers any time soon.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-3-1) AT New Orleans Saints (4-5) – Saints -7.5

Prediction: Bengals, 33-24. The Saints’ defense didn’t look as bad as it typically does against a 49ers team without a game breaking receiver. That will change this week, when the Bengals will look to avenge a pathetic offensive performance behind AJ Green. If Andy Dalton doesn’t come to play for the second consecutive game, it’s panic time for Marvin Lewis.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8) AT Washington Redskins (3-6) – Redskins -7.5

Prediction: Redskins, 36-20. Typically, I make it a point not to pick the Washington Redskins to cover, especially when it’s over 6.5 points. However, Tampa Bay has redefined the definition of “tomato can.” They can’t run. They can’t pass. They can’t defend. It might be one-and-done for Lovie Smith in Tampa, who haven’t been competitive in half-a-decade.

Denver Broncos (7-2) AT St. Louis Rams (3-6) – Broncos -10

Prediction: Broncos, 34-17. The Rams are going back to veteran QB Shaun Hill after two months starting rookie Austin Davis. That won’t make much of a difference against Denver, who will continue to prey on lesser opponents until Peyton Manning and Co. inevitably meet Tom Brady and the Patriots in January.

San Francisco 49ers (5-4) AT New York Giants (3-6) – 49ers -4.5

Prediction: 49ers, 23-20. New York hasn’t won in a month and their season rests on the line this week. Tom Coughlin’s career might, as well. If the Giants are to have any hope, they’ll have to run the ball. The return of Rashad Jennings should help. Still, the 49ers are the better team; and even though they’ll be travelling across the country for this one, they’ll still be in fine shape come Sunday night.

Oakland Raiders (0-9) AT San Diego Chargers (5-4) – Chargers -10.5

riverspPrediction: Chargers, 35-21. It’s been a month now since San Diego was everyone’s flavor of the week. Three losses later, and they seem to have been forgotten in the myriad of AFC contenders. I still think that San Diego is talented enough to make noise if they get to the tournament. Tomato cans like Oakland shouldn’t stand in their way. Another blowout on Sunday and the Raiders continue to inch closer to 0-16.

Detroit Lions (7-2) AT Arizona Cardinals (8-1) – Cardinals -1

Prediction: Lions, 20-17. Neither of these two contenders are without flaw. Arizona’s became magnified with Carson Palmer’s season ending torn-ACL. This promises to be a great, defensive battle between two clubs who still draw skepticism from the pundits. It’s a coin flip in my eyes.

New England Patriots (7-2) AT Indianapolis Colts (6-3) – Colts -2.5

Prediction: Patriots, 27-24. The Patriots come into this game underdogs for the second consecutive affair. While Andrew Luck may be having the best season of his career, beating New England’s improving defense will take a Brady-like performance. Speaking of Brady, the Patriots’ veteran QB has put together two months of stellar play. Two more months of vintage Tommy and the Pats should be hosting the AFC Championship Game in January.

Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) AT Tennessee Titans (2-7) – Steelers -6.5

Prediction: Steelers, 27-17. Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t nearly as good as it looked against Baltimore. They’re also not as bad as they appeared in New York. Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to avoid the pass rush has kept him upright for years. He shouldn’t have too much to worry about in Tennessee, where the hapless Titans will look to avoid another mediocre performance in front of their home crowd.

At 6-2 and atop the NFC East, the Philadelphia Eagles and their fans should be riding high midway through the 2014 season. But, that’s certainly not the case.

sanchizeIn the team’s 31-21 victory last Sunday over the Houston Texans, Philadelphia lost their leaders on both offense and defense, possibly for the remainder of the campaign. Nick Foles, who has commanded the team’s high powered attack for over year now, is out 6-8 weeks after cracking his clavicle in the second quarter on a sack by Whitney Mercilus. Later in the game, the heart and soul of Philadelphia’s defense, DeMeco Ryans, was lost for the year with a torn Achilles tendon.

In Foles’ stead, former Jets’ gun slinger Mark Sanchez is expected to step in. The “Sanchize,” as he was known during his time in New York, has never played with an offense as talented and dynamic as Philadelphia’s. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if Philadelphia’s unit doesn’t miss a beat without their starter. With LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Jeremy Maclin, Zach Ertz, etc. all performing capably, Sanchez should be able to merely manage the game and put up points.

The concern comes on defense, where the loss of Ryans exposes what was already a thin crop at middle linebacker. Veteran Casey Matthews is expected to return to the starting lineup, a spot he occupied for 4 games while Mychal Kendricks nursed a calf injury. Matthews isn’t very fast and tackles like your sister. So, his ascension to the starting job is a serious cause for concern. Rookie Marcus Smith II and fellow youngster Emmanuel Acho are also expected to see their playing time increase with Ryans on the mend. All of this only serves to add more pressure to the Eagles’ solid offensive line and Kendricks, who will now be the team’s point-man against the run.

This Monday, Philadelphia will return home for the first time in a month to take on the Carolina Panthers. On paper, this is a matchup of two banged up playoff teams from a year ago. But, the fact of the matter is that this Panthers team is merely Brandon Boykin, Bradley Fletchera shell of its former self. Cam Newton, the #1 pick in 2011, has been more inconsistent than the American electorate. The offseason losses both on the offensive line and at wide receiver are clearly handicapping the Panthers’ QB. While rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin has been stellar, the rest of the offense has stagnated, with Newton having perhaps the worst game of his season last week against New Orleans.

At 3-5, the Panthers’ defense has also been a major disappointment. After emerging as one of the best young defensive units in the game, Carolina has seen their shimmering star go dim. One area that the Eagles should be able to particularly expose is the Panthers’ run defense, which ranks 26th in the NFL. Expect a steady dose of McCoy, Sproles, and Chris Polk against Luke Kuechly’s club.

All in all, Philadelphia comes into this game as a solid favorite, and for good reason. The Eagles have shown an ability to stay in every game they’ve played. On the other hand, the Panthers have only looked worse and worse over the last few weeks. Still, Newton’s talent alone could give Philadelphia, who hasn’t played many scrambling QB this season, fits. I think it will be a tight affair, with a lake Cody Parkey field goal perhaps serving as the difference in an Eagles’ win.

Line: Philadelphia -6
Pick: Philadelphia, 29-26

Now, on to week ten!

Last Week: 6-7 (Best pick: Philadelphia, 26-17)
2014 Season ATS: 62-52

Cleveland Browns (5-3) AT Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1) – Bengals -6.5

Prediction: Bengals, 28-14. Cincinnati’s defense has taken a lot of flack over the last few weeks. But, they’ll get an opportunity to put some separation between themselves and their cross-state rivals with a win on Thursday night. The Browns haven’t won on the road against a division rival in years, a fact that will likely remain true after this weekend despite what has been a banner year for Cleveland, so far.

Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) AT Buffalo Bills (5-3) – Chiefs -2.5

Prediction: Bills, 24-21. I have to give credit where it’s due. Andy Reid has turned Kansas City from an AFC doormat to a threat any given Sunday. The problem is, this is a classic Andy Reid trap game. A week from Sunday, the Chiefs play host to the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, Buffalo is fresh off a bye week and are expected to get RB Fred Jackson back from injury. The winner of this game is in great position to get a wild card spot. The loser will have to climb their way out of a crowded sea of AFC also-rans.

Miami Dolphins (5-3) AT Detroit Lions (6-2) – Lions -3

jerermyhillPrediction: Detroit, 27-24. Two of last year’s most disappointing teams, the Dolphins and Lions were both in line for the playoffs going into the final month of 2013 before falling apart down the stretch. They’ll have another chance to reach January football as the two take each other on in the Motor City. Detroit is coming off of a bye. Meanwhile, Miami squashed San Diego 37-0 at home last week. I’m not in love with either team’s chances of representing their conference in Arizona. But, I’ll take the Lions at home in what should be a solid affair.

Dallas Cowboys (6-3) AT Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) – Cowboys -7

Prediction: Cowboys, 31-17. London is calling and the NFL is answering. America’s Team is heading to the UK for a matchup against the team no one in America cares about. Tony Romo is expected to play despite being one bad hit away from a life alert button. I guess Dallas is feeling the desperation after back-to-back home losses, the latter of which illustrated just how pathetic a QB Brandon Weeden is. Despite that fact, this game has bounce back written all over it for Dallas.

San Francisco 49ers (4-4) AT New Orleans Saints (4-4) – Saints -5.5

Prediction: Saints, 21-17. Classic Jim Harbaugh led drive at the end of the 49ers’ loss to St. Louis last week. Much like the Super Bowl following 2012, San Francisco had 1st and goal inside the 5-yard line and was unable to punch it in. Also like that loss to Baltimore, Frank Gore didn’t touch the ball once inside the red-zone. Now, the veteran RB is questionable for this week’s game in The Big Easy. We’ll see whether or not New Orleans’ home dominance (4-0) continues against one of the best defenses in football. Something tells me that it will, and San Francisco will find themselves in an even deeper hole than anyone could have imagined.

Tennessee Titans (2-6) AT Baltimore Ravens (5-4) – Ravens -10

Prediction: Ravens, 30-21. Tennessee may have a bye week to prepare for a slumping Ravens team. But, they also have rookie QB Zach Mettenberger at QB, who is more proficient with a cell phone camera than he is with a football. This is a classic bounce back affair for Baltimore, who can’t afford another loss while battling in an uber-competitive AFC North.

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) AT New York Jets (1-8) – Steelers -6

bigbenPrediction: Steelers, 38-16. The Jets might be the worst team in the league. Not necessarily based on talent. But, more on drive and the will to win. This is a team that has given up and has no real reason to play for their coach anymore. Michael Vick’s career will be over soon, and he’s just playing out the paycheck at this point. On the other hand, the Steelers have hit their stride and with the performance of their offense the last few weeks, have a real reason to believe that playoff football could return to Heinz Field for the first time in nearly 5-years.

Atlanta Falcons (2-6) AT Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6) – Falcons -3

Prediction: Buccaneers, 20-17. In the stinker of the week, these two NFC South doormats duel in a game that only the sadistic would choose to watch. It’s a matchup of the stoppable force (Atlanta is 0-4 on the road) and the movable object (Tampa is 0-4 at home). One of these teams needs to win. Might as well make it the home team, as Josh McCown returns to the starting QB spot for the Bucs.

Denver Broncos (6-2) AT Oakland Raiders (0-8) – Broncos -12

Prediction: Broncos, 41-20. Nothing like the NFL serving up a nice tomato can matchup for Peyton Manning and the Broncos, who are fresh off their thwacking at the hands of New England. The Raiders gave Seattle quite a fight last week. I wouldn’t expect the same amount of success against a pissed off Denver team. Manning could throw for 5 touchdowns in this one as the Broncos bounce back and keep the soon to be 0-16 Raiders out of the win column.

St. Louis Rams (3-5) AT Arizona Cardinals (7-1) – Cardinals -7.5

Prediction: Cardinals, 20-17. If there’s one thing St. Louis has proven to me this season, it’s that they never go down without a fight. I learned from my mistake last week, picking San Francisco to obliterate the Rams at home. Jeff Fisher has his team coming to play every week and it’s likely what will save his job when all is said and done. On the other side, Arizona believes that it’s going to be the first team to play a Super Bowl at home when Glendale hosts the 49th annual event this February. I don’t know if I’m willing to go that far. But, the odds on favorite for home field advantage can take a big step with a win on Sunday.

New York Giants (3-5) AT Seattle Seahawks (5-3) – Seahawks -9.5

Prediction: Seahawks, 31-21. The Giants’ defense looks worse and worse every week, and it’s not going to get better when they have to travel to Seattle on a short week. It’s going to be a sad ending to Tom Coughlin’s career, as the Giants are probably on their way to no better than a 7-9 season. Meanwhile, Seattle struggled at times last week against Oakland. They’ll need to start picking up their play if they hope to survive a brutal stretch in Nov/Dec that includes Arizona (2x), San Francisco (2x), Philadelphia, and Kansas City.

Chicago Bears (3-5) AT Green Bay Packers (5-3) – Packers -7.5

Prediction: Bears, 31-27. My upset pick of the week sees Chicago keeping their division hopes alive with a big road win in Lambeau. The Bears haven’t looked very mighty this season. But, a bye week and desperation might be just enough to halt Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, who are 3-0 at home this season. Look for Matt Forte to be a huge part of the offense against Green Bay’s 32nd ranked rush defense.

Even against one of the best teams in football, this loss was hard to swallow.

Darren+Sproles+Jason+Kelce+Pittsburgh+Steelers+1F-lkeqP0YmlOn Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles gave it their all, falling just 4-points short in Glendale, Arizona. At 5-2, Philadelphia is still in good shape for a playoff berth. Though, their schedule won’t get much easier from-here-on-out. Sunday’s affair, a game in which SkoodSports was present and accounted for, Philadelphia saw a late lead evaporate thanks to a blown coverage by Cary Williams and Nate Allen. Philadelphia neglected to improve their inconsistent secondary before Tuesday’s trading deadline. So, they’ll have to rely upon the same crop of characters when they head to Houston this weekend to take on the Texans.

As usual, much has been made of Nick Foles’ two turnovers. Though, somehow rookie WR Josh Huff escapes blame for his embarrassing redzone fumble in the first half that cost the team the game just as much as Foles did. What about Chip Kelly’s refusal to challenge the call on Chris Polk’s goal line run in the 4th quarter? Or, the continued reluctance on shotgun run plays inside the opponent’s 3-yard line.

In the end, the blame is shared. Foles had some ugly moments. But, he also threw the ball 62 times and completed a team record 36 passes. If Philadelphia could have gotten just one stop in the second half, this game would have been theirs. Typically in Philadelphia, the QB is the first to be blamed. We’re seeing that in droves. But, just as typical as that is the fact that fans and media are almost always wrong.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This Sunday, the Eagles take on the Texans. JJ Watt and Houston’s defense should present some mismatches for the Eagles still banged up offensive line. Jason Kelce’s status for this game will be determined on Saturday. Meanwhile, RG Todd Herremans is expected to play despite tearing his bicep during Sunday’s loss.

If Philadelphia is going to triumph on the road, they’ll need McCoy to run for over 100-yards again. Likewise, the defense needs to contain Texans’ RB Arian Foster, who has returned near the top of the NFL’s rushing leaders. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, while a solid game manager, isn’t going to be the one to beat the Eagles. It’s going to be up to Foster and the run game to wear down Philly’s defense. Something that no running game has done since their week 4 loss to San Francisco.

Line: Eagles -2.5
Prediction: Eagles 26-17

And now on to the rest of SkoodSports’ week nine picks:

Last week: 10-5
(Best picks: Redskins by 3, Browns by 10, Bengals by 3)
2014 Season:  56-45

New Orleans Saints (3-4) AT Carolina Panthers (3-4-1) – Saints -3.5

Prediction: Panthers, 34-31. In a dome, the Saints would likely roll over what is a very inconsistent Carolina team. However, New Orleans is 0-4 on the road, and has not played well outside of the Mercedes Benz Superdome since Drew Brees arrived. I’ll take the home team here in a close one, atypical for Thursday night. Bet the over if you’re into that sort of thing.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6) AT Cleveland Browns (4-3) – Browns -7

Prediction: Cleveland, 26-14. Doug Martin has been brutal for Tampa this season, and the third year RB is likely out for a while now due to injury. He’ll be replaced by Bobby Rainey with a potential cameo from rookie 3rd round pick Charles Sims. They won’t have enough to overcome Cleveland, whose last place schedule has aided their ascent from the depths of the AFC.

Arizona Cardinals (6-1) AT Dallas Cowboys (6-2) – Cowboys -3

Prediction: Cardinals, 26-23. Dallas looks like they’re going to play Tony Romo, who’s one bad hit in the back away from his career potentially ending. The real story here is Arizona, whose staunch run defense (Shady McCoy’s 80+ yards last week were the most allowed all season by the Cardinals) gets a true test in the form of the Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray. Dallas’ defense is beginning to erode. Expect Arizona to take advantage and win this one in a close affair.

ellington

New York Jets (1-7) AT Kansas City Chiefs (4-3) – Chiefs -10

Prediction: Chiefs, 38-14. This is as close to a lock as possible despite the double-digit spread. Michael Vick replaces Geno Smith as New York’s starter and who better to get it started against than Andy Reid. Vick is a shell of his former self and the weapons around him are nothing more than pedestrian. Alex Smith (25-29) was as efficient as it can be last week. That spells disaster for a pathetic New York pass defense.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) AT Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-1) – Bengals -11

Prediction: Bengals, 24-16. I’m not really sure what to make of the Bengals. They’re as streaky as they come this season. I do know, on the other hand, that Jacksonville stinks. The problem with this spread is that Cincinnati is likely missing Giovanni Bernard this weekend, and the Jaguars’ staunch run defense should make it difficult for Jeremy Hill and the Bengals to run out the clock if they have a solid lead. Take the Jags with the points.

San Diego Chargers (5-3) AT Miami Dolphins (4-3) – Dolphins -1.5

Prediction: Chargers, 27-20. One of the more interesting spreads this week that is more than likely influenced by San Diego travelling cross country and playing at 1:00 PM. While that may help Miami out, the Chargers are still the more talented team and they’ll be aided by the extra rest (haven’t played in 10-days since a Thursday night loss in Denver). In the end, I’ll take Philip Rivers over Ryan Tannehill despite the latter’s recent upswing in performance.

Washington Redskins (3-5) AT Minnesota Vikings (3-5) – Vikings -1

Prediction: Redskins, 27-17. How ’bout them Redskins? A week after Washington made myself and Gregg Rosenthal the two smartest people in the world (we were just about the only people picking them to upset Dallas), the boys from DC get RG3 back after missing the 3rd year QB since opening day. While Griffin remains a question mark, he’s still good enough to beat a massively mediocre Vikings team.

St. Louis Rams (2-5) AT San Francisco 49ers (4-3) – 49ers -10

Prediction: 49ers, 35-21. San Francisco is coming off a bye week and playing a St. Louis team that can’t stop anyone. The Rams are also banged up on offense. This game could be over early. Keep an eye on Frank Gore, who should get plenty of touches for a surging 49ers bunch.

Oakland Raiders (0-7) AT Seattle Seahawks (4-3) – Seahawks -15

Prediction: Seahawks, 29-17. If there was ever an opportunity to galvanize this hapless bunch of Raiders, this is it. Not only are you playing the defending champs in their home stadium. But, you’re massive 15-point underdogs as well. I think that Derek Carr has enough poise to keep the Raiders within the line of this spread, even if it takes a late touchdown to do so. The last time I picked the Seahawks at home against a winless team, they almost lost the the Bucs last season. I’m going with Oakland to cover.

Denver Broncos (6-1) AT New England Patriots (6-2) – Broncos -3.5

bradymanningPrediction: Broncos, 28-24. I really want to pick the Patriots here. What with Brady’s history at home against Manning and the fact that Denver has only played 2-road games this season so far (losing one of them). But, I just can’t do it. Denver has 10-days to prepare, a red hot offense, and one of the best pass rushing units in the NFL. Couple that with the losses that New England has suffered (Ridley, Jones, Mayo) and it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards this week despite the Pats’ 4-0 home mark. It will be close, and this matchup is must see TV.

Baltimore Ravens (5-3) AT Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) – Ravens -1.5

Prediction: Steelers, 20-17. Speaking of must see TV, the rematch of this heated rivalry sees two hard nosed clubs go up against each other for division supremacy. There’s rarely a dull moment between the Steelers and Ravens, so expect a lot of physical play and a few scores as well. In the end, I’ll take the home team, as Pitt salvages a split with Baltimore.

Indianapolis Colts (5-3) AT New York Giants (3-4) – Colts -3.5

Prediction: Giants, 28-25. Monday Night Football has become a bastion for upsets this season. That trend will continue as the Giants improve to .500 with a win against Andrew Luck’s Colts. I really think Indianapolis’ pass defense was exposed last week, and a second consecutive road game in subpar weather will be less than advantageous for them. Meanwhile, the Giants are coming off a bye-week in what is a relative must win game to stay afloat in the uber-competitive NFC East.

For the second consecutive season, the Philadelphia Eagles will return from their bye week for a matchup against the Arizona Cardinals

Also, for the second consecutive season, I’ll be on the road to see my Birds in person as a visiting spectator.

Let’s hope this trip turns out better than last December’s venture to Minnesota did.

At 5-1, the Eagles are near the top of the NFL. But, they’ll get a stiff test this Sunday when they head to University of Phoenix eagleskendricksStadium for a matchup with Bruce Arians’ 5-1 Arizona Cardinals. For Philadelphia, the bye week came at just the right time. With Mychal Kendricks and Darren Sproles both returning to practice this week, the Eagles could return two of their best playmakers on both sides of the ball. If they’re going to overcome a hostile road venue, they’ll need all the help they can get.

The last time Philadelphia took the field, they clicked on all cylinders, blowing the doors off of the New York Giants, 27-0. Philadelphia’s pass rush will get another opportunity against an immobile, pocket passer in Arizona’s Carson Palmer. The 2003 #1 overall pick has been steady if unspectacular for Arians’ club. Arizona will rely on RB Andre Ellington (105 att – 393 yards) and the dynamic receiving duo of Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. Philadelphia hasn’t been tested by big receivers too much this season. So, it will be interesting to see how the much maligned secondary holds up after a strong performance two-weeks ago.

On offense, the story will once again revolve around LeSean McCoy. After a dismal month, McCoy blossomed for 149 yards palmeron the ground against the Giants. When it comes to “Shady,” the offensive line is what matters most. If the Eagles can dominate the LOS (line-of-scrimmage) like they did against New York, this could be a long afternoon for a banged up Arizona defense.

Last year, Philadelphia overcame a late collapse to edge Arizona at Lincoln Financial Field. Arians is still bitter over the defeat, as his post game tirade complaining about the refereeing in that game is still fresh in the minds of the media masses. While both teams look likely to make the postseason this year; it’s clear that the winner of this one will be in a much better position to grab a home playoff game than the team that falls in defeat.

Line: Arizona -2.5
Prediction: Philadelphia, 27-23

Now, onto the rest of SkoodSports’ week eight picks…

Last Week: 7-8
2014 Season: 46-40

San Diego Chargers (5-2) AT Denver Broncos (5-1) – Broncos -8

Prediction: Broncos, 31-21. As if San Diego didn’t have it bad enough. Not only did they lose a tough home matchup against Kansas City on Sunday (an upset, I might add, that SkoodSports correctly predicted). But, now they have to face the NFL all-time touchdown pass king in Peyton Manning and the dominant Denver Broncos. San Diego may see their division hopes crumble in the course of 4-days.

Detroit Lions (5-2) AT Atlanta Falcons (2-5) – Lions -4

Prediction: Falcons, 26-23. In perhaps the most star-studded London game ever, the Falcons and Lions play the first ever 9:30 AM EST Sunday game. It will be interesting to see which of these teams gets the early lead. If it’s Detroit, this game could be over fast. But, Atlanta’s season is basically riding on the line here. I expect Matt Ryan to put together a vintage performance at Wembley.

St. Louis Rams (2-4) AT Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) – Chiefs -7

Prediction: Chiefs, 28-24. Kansas City’s come-from-behind win against San Diego really put a jolt into their season. The Chiefs have now beaten both the Chargers and Patriots over the last month. They’ll get a much easier opponent at home this week. St. Louis was able to salvage a victory against the Seahawks on Sunday. But, it will take a lot more than a couple of gimmick plays on special teams to go into Arrowhead and come out alive.

Houston Texans (3-4) AT Tennessee Titans (2-5) – Texans -2.5

Prediction: Texans, 26-13. The Tennessee Titans’ two victories this season have come against Jacksonville and Kansas City (in week one). They’ve had some close ones but it’s unlikely that veteran backup Charlie Whitehurst is going to lead this team to anything more than a 5-11 record. On the other hand, the struggling Texans have lost three in a row and need to win this one if they have any hopes of a playoff push.

Minnesota Vikings (2-5) AT Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5) – Bucs -3

Prediction: Minnesota, 17-16. This is easily the most unwatchable game of the season so far. On one end, you have the inconsistent play of rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater. On the other, you have a 6’6″ backup QB named Mike Glennon who looks more like Sean Bradley’s ginger cousin than a championship QB. Tampa has dragged defeat from the jaws of victory over-and-over this season. I don’t expect that to change thanks to a bye week.

Seattle Seahawks (3-3) AT Carolina Panthers (3-3-1) – Seahawks -5.5

Prediction: Panthers, 23-20. A lot has been made of how this is going to be the bounce back game that the Seahawks need after two consecutive losses. But, Carolina is another team that is in desperate need of a rebound after they tied Cincinnati and got the doors blown off in Green Bay. The Panthers are still very talented, even if their defense has looked like a shell of their 2013 unit. Upset city, population Carolina. Cam Newton will come to play.

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Baltimore Ravens (5-2) AT Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1) – Ravens -1

Prediction: Bengals, 20-17. Cincinnati’s offense has been anemic without AJ Green. The good news is that the former Georgia Bulldog star is back this week against the Ravens’ ferocious defense. If the Bengals have any hopes at a division title, they’ll need Andy Dalton to find Green for at least one score. I think that will happen, and Cincinnati will complete a sweep of the Ravens.

Miami Dolphins (3-3) AT Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) – Dolphins -6

Prediction: Dolphins, 27-10. Even in Jacksonville’s first victory a week ago, rookie QB Blake Bortles looked uneasy. He’ll need to find his stride if the Jags are to get their first winning streak in years. Miami, meanwhile, looked brilliant in rebounding from a debilitating loss to Green Bay when they trounced the Bears in Chicago. The Dolphins saw Ryan Tannehill put together one of the finest games of his young career. Expect more of the same as Miami goes above .500 once again.

Chicago Bears (3-4) AT New England Patriots (5-2) – Patriots -6

Prediction: Bears, 27-24. This has all the makings of your classic “trap game” for New England. Not only do they play Peyton Manning and the Broncos the following week. But, New England also has to deal with the deteriorating health of their defense. Jarrod Mayo was already out for the season. Now, the Patriots will have to make due without their best pass rusher, Chandler Jones, for at least a few weeks. Add into that their already well pronounced inability to stop the run (and the prowess of Chicago’s Matt Forte), and you have a recipe made for disaster. Darrelle Revis showing up late to practices and being sent home by Bill Belichick certainly doesn’t help. Chicago is 3-1 away from Soldier Field. They’ll move to 4-4 overall with all of those wins coming on the road with a win on Sunday.

Buffalo Bills (4-3) AT New York Jets (1-6) – Jets -3

Prediction: Bills, 19-14. Rex Ryan has a new toy in Percy Harvin. But, I wouldn’t expect Harvin to make too much of an impact against Buffalo, whose defense ranks near the top of the league. The Bills have their own problems, with both Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller out due to injury. Expect the emergence of Bryce Brown to ensue, as the Bills keep their division title hopes alive with a victory.

Oakland Raiders (0-6) AT Cleveland Browns (3-3) – Browns -7

Prediction: Browns, 31-21. So, Cleveland gets to play winless teams in back-to-back weeks. They’ll have to hope this time around turns out better than last week’s disastrous defeat at the hands of Jacksonville. Brian Hoyer really struggled in Jacksonville. But, he’ll return home to the friendly confines, where he’s played exceptionally well in 2014. Expect a bounce back for Hoyer and continued failures for the soon-to-be 0-7 Oakland Raiders.

Indianapolis Colts (5-2) AT Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) – Colts -3.5

Prediction: Colts, 24-17. The Steelers are coming off a short week, with their Monday night victory over Houston still fresh in the minds of their fans. That won’t help against a Colts team that shutout Cincinnati last Sunday. If Pittsburgh has any hope, it’s getting the run game going with Bell and Blount. They’ll also need to contain Andrew Luck, who has continued his ascent towards the top of the NFL’s quarterback rankings. I don’t see it happening, as the Steelers will likely fall back to .500 despite playing at home.

Green Bay Packers (5-2) AT New Orleans Saints (2-4) – Pick ‘em

redskinsPrediction: Packers, 38-27. First off, I really don’t understand how this is a pick ‘em game. This reminds me all too well of a 2011 Philadelphia Eagles type of spread. That is, a team that’s so wildly overhyped in the preseason that continues to get the benefit of the doubt until November. The Saints’ defense is abysmal, and the offense hasn’t been all that much better in crunch time. We’re really supposed to believe that they can hang with a red-hot Packers team (winners of four in a row) just because they’re playing at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome?

Washington Redskins (2-5) AT Dallas Cowboys (6-1) – Dallas -10

Prediction: Washington, 27-24. Most will call me insane. They’re probably right. But, there’s something about the idea of Colt McCoy returning to Texas, where he played collegiately for the Longhorns, and beating the Cowboys on their own turf. After all, Dallas has long had trouble with the Redskins at home, regardless of whether their QB was Jason Campbell or Todd Collins. For the Redskins to win, they’ll need to stop the run and pound the rock with Alfred Morris. At least one of those things is likely to occur. That’s good enough for me, especially considering how much I disdain the Cowboys.

The City of Brotherly Love has never been a very loving environment for Philadelphia Eagles starting signal callers. In fact, it’s often said that the most popular man in the city is the backup quarterback in midnight-green. In 2014, that mantra still holds true, and young QB Nick Foles continues to fight through growing pains and growing animosity from the fanbase and the often convoluted Philadelphia media.

foleskellyRandall Cunningham dealt with it. After all, the 1990 MVP award winner “could never read a defense.” Donovan McNabb, the team’s all time wins leader at the position, was booed from the moment he was drafted and considered a “choker” who couldn’t get the job done at the most crucial of times. Ron Jaworski, Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb; the list of gunslingers whose psyches were dented by the vociferous venom of the Philadelphia faithful reaches deep into the franchise’s futile history.

Now, in the midst of the franchise’s most successful season in 10-years, the skeptical nature of Philadelphia’s fans has once against reared it’s ugly head.

Foles, who shattered team records with 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in 2013, has undoubtedly seen regression in his stats. Anyone who expected similar numbers would be kidding themselves. After all, defenses learn tendencies of young quarterbacks and it’s up to the player to overcome those adjustments. So far, Foles leads the league in turnovers. Yes, some folessnowof them have been worse than others. But, at 25-years old, these are the mistakes Foles should be expected to make. It’s also no mistake that the team keeps winning despite these flaws. “Culture beats scheme any day,” says Foles’ coach Chip Kelly. It’s that same culture that Foles is apart of that will keep his teammates fighting for him, and vice versa. Now, if only we could convince the fans and media to understand that perfection has its price.

Regression from one-season to another is no surprise for a young QB. One of the best of all time, Saints QB Drew Brees, saw similar regression when he was Foles’ age:

Drew Brees 2002: 320-526 (60.8%), 17 TD, 16 INT
Drew Brees 2003: 205-356 (57.6%), 11 TD, 15 INT
Drew Brees 2004: 262-400 (65.5%), 27 TD, 7 INT

Now, I am by no means comparing Foles to Brees. After all, the former’s numbers in his first season as a starter far dwarfs the future hall of fame’rs statistics. But, it goes to further illustrate that those looking for prolonged perfection from their quarterback are looking for something that just doesn’t happen when the signal caller in question is still enduring his first 25 career starts.

Even the statistical benchmark for quarterbacks, Dan Marino, endured regression from his first full season as a starter to the next:

Dan Marino 1984: 362-564 (64.2%), 48 TD, 17 INT
Dan Marino 1985: 336-567 (59.3%), 30 TD, 21 INT
Dan Marino 1986: 378-623 (60.7%), 44 TD, 23 INT

My, oh my, look at all those Marino turnovers. I don’t think too many people were calling the future hall-of-fame QB a bust or a liability at the time. That’s the type of language reserved for Foles on the Philadelphia airwaves. It begs the question of whether or not Philadelphians are as wise as they claim to be when it comes to their football team. After all, there’s no way that a player like Brett Favre went through these same slumps, right?

Brett Favre 1992: 302-471 (64.1%), 18 TD, 13 INT
Brett Favre 1993: 318-522 (60.9%), 19 TD, 24 INT
Brett Favre 1994: 363-582 (62.4%), 33 TD, 14 INT

All three of the quarterbacks previously listed were entering their second years in the NFL when they became full time starters, just like Foles. Don’t like history? What about a more recent example? Here, we have Brees’ replacement in San Diego and current MVP front-runner Philip Rivers:

Philip Rivers 2006: 284-460 (61.7%), 22 TD, 9 INT
Philip Rivers 2007: 277-460 (60.2%), 21 TD, 15 INT
Philip Rivers 2008: 312-478 (65.3%), 34 TD, 11 INT

Like Foles, Rivers got a chance to sit on the bench and learn. When he finally got his chance to start, the former NC State star brees riversled the Chargers to the postseason. After a statistical slump in 2007, he was right back to his old, aerial assaulting ways in his third year as a starter.

Foles and Rivers each led their teams to the playoffs their first season as starters. Meanwhile, the former has the 2014 Eagles atop the NFC at 5-1. It begs the question, “why so serious,” Philadelphia fans? You have the best record in the conference and a young quarterback who is clearly not afraid to make and learn from his mistakes. The only other thing you could ask for is a Lombardi Trophy. With Foles and Kelly at the helm, that wish might finally come true.

On Black Sunday, contenders are made and pretenders are realized.

New York Giants v Philadelphia EaglesFor the Philadelphia Eagles, Black Sunday saw not only the introduction of some of the freshest uniforms to date. But, it also brought upon a realization that the NFC East is now a two horse race. Along with the Dallas Cowboys, who shocked the defending champion Seahawks on the road earlier in the day, the Philadelphia Eagles delivered the gargantuan blow to the hopes and dreams of thousands of New York Giants faithful.

On offense, Philadelphia saw the resurgence of LeSean McCoy, who nearly galloped for 150-yards after a month of misery to begin the season. The patchwork offensive line, the source of much despair in The City of Brotherly Love, held together to become a strength. Their ability to wear down the New York front was critical when compared to the Giants’ front five, who looked more like turnstiles and traffic cones than professional football players.

shutoutAs for Billy Davis’ defense. Well, it doesn’t get much better than their performance. The Eagles’ pass rush, maligned for much of the season, came together like a rebel force tearing through the countryside. From the opening snap, Giants’ QB Eli Manning had no time to think, let alone orchestrate an offense. A big reason for the line’s success, of course, was the performance of the secondary. A week after the duo of Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams looked like Tweedledee and Tweedledum during the team’s fourth quarter collapse vs. St. Louis; the duo of veteran cornerbacks put together a shutdown performance. It was just what the doctor ordered for a heavyweight NFC East battle.

Not all news from Sunday was good news for Philadelphia. RB Darren Sproles went down with an MCL sprain. He’s not expected to miss more than a couple of weeks. But, his status for week 8 vs. Arizona remains in question. Considering the the sheer volume of Sproles’ impact on offense and special teams this year, his departure will surely be missed. But, the Eagles will have a chance to get he and the rest of their wounded warriors back thanks to the upcoming bye week.

On to the picks…

Last Week: 9-6
2014 Season: 39-32

New York Jets (1-5) AT New England Patriots (4-2) – Patriots -10

Prediction: New England, 23-10. Let’s face it, this is going to be Rex Ryan’s final season in New York. What better way to say goodbye than one final upset of his rival from up north? Well, fairy tales don’t always come true in the NFL. New England’s injuries and a driving rain won’t be enough to give Geno Smith and the Jets any hope.

Atlanta Falcons (2-4) AT Baltimore Ravens (4-2) – Ravens -7

Prediction: Baltimore, 23-20. Both of these teams are as inconsistent as they come. Baltimore looked like world beaters last week; until one remembers that they were playing the Bucs. Meanwhile, Atlanta lost their first home game in a season that has quickly unraveled into a near parallel of 2013. I hate Atlanta on the road. But, I hate the Ravens after a blowout win even more. Someone has to win. I’ll go with the home team in a close one.

Tennessee Titans (2-4) AT Washington Redskins (1-5) – Redskins -5.5

Prediction: Titans, 24-17. The award for game I’d least like to watch this Sunday goes to this must-see-matchup. The Titans are coming off of as ugly a win as you can imagine, 16-14 over the even more embarrassing Jaguars. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins looked colorblind with some of his terrible throws during Washington’s blowout loss at Arizona. One of these two has to win, and I don’t think it will be the swiftly faltering Redskins.

Seattle Seahawks (3-2) AT St. Louis Rams (1-4) – Seahawks -7.5

Prediction: Seahawks, 31-16. The defending champions are going to be very, very mad. Not only are they coming off just their 2nd home loss in nearly three years. But, they’re also playing a rookie quarterback in the division in what has become a critical game if they hope to keep up with Arizona and San Francisco. This one won’t be close at all.

Cleveland Browns (3-2) AT Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6) – Browns -6

Prediction: Browns, 20-10. The Cleveland offense looked really good last week against a Pittsburgh D that is a shell of its former self. But, the Browns are unlikely to sustain that type of production over the entire season. Jacksonville, meanwhile, is looking more and more like an 0-16 contender. Cleveland’s punishing defense should have a field day against Blake Bortles.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-1-1) AT Indianapolis Colts (4-2) – Colts -3.5

Prediction: Colts, 27-14. Considering the start that both of these teams got off to, few would expect Indianapolis to be favored. The Bengals began the year 3-0 before their defense fell apart, allowing 80 points combined the last two games. Meanwhile, the Colts’ 0-2 start seems like a distant memory. Look for Andrew Luck to find some good fortune against a struggling Cincinnati D’.

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Minnesota Vikings (2-4) AT Buffalo Bills (3-3) – Bills -6

Prediction: Bills, 23-20. This is a huge game for Buffalo, who lost their grasp on the AFC East in last week’s home loss to New England. If they have any hope to make noise this season, they have to win games like this one. Minnesota, meanwhile, has looked abysmal offensively the last two games. I don’t really see that changing too much against a Buffalo defense that can really get to the passer.

Miami Dolphins (2-3) AT Chicago Bears (3-3) – Bears -3.5

Prediction: Bears, 27-17. Chicago is 0-2 at Soldier Field this season. But, that trend isn’t likely to continue much longer. Miami blew a golden opportunity last week against Green Bay, falling to Aaron Rodgers and Co. on the final play of the game. Miami’s offense just isn’t consistent enough to put together a solid road win like this one. Especially when one considers the potential for Chicago to score 30+ without batting an eye.

New Orleans Saints (2-3) AT Detroit Lions (4-2) – Lions -3

Prediction: Saints, 26-24. Typically, the Lions at home against the Saints’ woeful pass defense would be reason for pause. But, the lack of Calvin Johnson and potentially Reggie Bush gives New Orleans fans hope. For the Saints, this is a critical game, as even during a down year for the NFC South, they cannot afford to fall any farther from first place. It will be close. But, I’ll take a healthier Saints offense against a banged up Detroit team.

Carolina Panthers (3-2-1) AT Green Bay Packers (4-2) – Packers -7

Prediction: Packers, 31-17. A year ago, this would have been must see TV. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ loaded offense against Luke Kuechly and Carolina’s ferocious defense? Sign me up! But, the Panthers’ back end has been ravaged by injuries and inconsistency. Meanwhile, their pass rush hasn’t been much better. I foresee Rodgers having a huge day as the Pack notify the league that they are indeed back.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) AT San Diego Chargers (5-1) – Chargers -4

Prediction: Chiefs, 27-24. AFC West battles are always tough to pick. The brand of football played out west and the history between these ferocious foes adds so much intrigue to what would otherwise be a lopsided spread. San Diego didn’t look very good on defense against Oakland last week. Now, they have a well-rested Chiefs bunch coming into town. This is K.C’s chance to get back into the AFC playoff picture, and they won’t miss that opportunity.

Arizona Cardinals (4-1) AT Oakland Raiders (0-5) – Cardinals -4

Prediction: Cardinals, 29-10. I don’t really understand this spread being as tight as it is. Yes, Arizona is on the road and the health of their quarterbacks is in question. But, with the defense that they possess and the meager foe they’re facing, the Cardinals could be sending Rick Mirer out there and I’d still feel comfortable taking them.

New York Giants (3-3) AT Dallas Cowboys (5-1) – Cowboys -6.5

Prediction: Giants, 24-21. First off, this isn’t to say that I think New York is better than Dallas. But, there are a few key reasons why I’m picking the Giants to upset Big D. First, New York always plays well at JerryWorld. Second, they’re coming off a truly embarrassing Sunday night loss to Philadelphia. If that doesn’t fire them up, nothing will. Third, the Cowboys are coming off an emotional, grueling victory in Seattle and are destined for a letdown. Finally, the Joseph Randle shoplifting fiasco has to be at least a little distracting in the locker room. I’ll take the Giants in the upset.

San Francisco 49ers (4-2) AT Denver Broncos (4-1) – Broncos -6.5

Prediction: Broncos, 28-23. Peyton Manning needs just three touchdowns to pass Brett Favre for the all-time touchdown pass title. I think he’ll get the job done this weekend even against one of the best defenses in football. San Francisco is on fire, having utilized their devastating defense and efficient offense to reel off 3 straight wins. A road game in Denver awaits, where no one has won so far this season.

Houston Texans (3-3) AT Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) – Steelers, -3.5

Prediction: Texans, 17-13. Two of the most inconsistent teams in football meet on Monday night. I’m not really a fan of either of these team’s playoff chances. But, I have more faith in Houston, fresh off of 10-days rest, to come through thanks to their veterans on offense and big JJ Watt on defense.

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