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’.

luck

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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When the Philadelphia Eagles take the field this Sunday night for their much anticipated matchup against the New York Giants, they’ll be “blacked out” for the first time in their history.

That’s right; Philadelphia, who introduced a black jersey during the mid-2000s, will sport that ensemble with their first pair of demecoblack pants as they look to stay on top of the NFC East. The decision to do so was likely in part influenced by the all-mighty dollar. It’s also impacted largely by Nike’s inability to get the chemistry right on the team’s green jerseys. Some of you may have noticed the team’s insistence in wearing white this season. That’s because, for the first time, the team has switched to the new Nike design that was introduced prior to the 2012 season. These jerseys are made with a unique fiber that promotes drying, breathe-ability, and flexibility. The problem, however, is that Nike can’t figure out how to make the midnight green colored fabric that Philadelphia is famous for. Reports during the preseason suggested they might be ready for this week. With the team’s move to an all-black outfit, that’s clearly not going to be the case.

Regardless of what “digs” the Eagles wear, they’ll need to see more production out of LeSean McCoy if they’re going to overcome a red hot Giants team. New York has won three in a row, and can take over first place in the division with a win on Sunday. McCoy, meanwhile, finally re-emerged after a brutal two week stretch prior to last weekend’s nailbiting win over the St. Louis Rams. “Shady” has been a monster against the Giants during the course of his career. So, expecting him to bounce back from a tough start isn’t all that far-fetched, especially as Lane Johnson continues to get re-acclimated to the roster.

On defense, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks are both questionable for Sunday’s affair. One of the two better play, as elithe only other interior linebackers the team has on the roster at this point are Clay Matthews and Emmanuel Acho; and no one wants to see them running all over the field for 60 minutes. The team also needs a better performance out of their secondary, as Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams both looked downright abysmal during St. Louis’ fourth quarter comeback last week.

For New York, the sudden surge in performance from their offense can easily be attributed to Eli Manning. The two-time
Super Bowl MVP has limited turnovers whilst becoming incredibly efficient in the red zone. If that continues, Philadelphia might have trouble keeping up. One shred of good news for the Eagles is that starting RB Rashad Jennings, who gashed Philly for over 100 yards last year while with Oakland, is not expected to play. New York will have to rely on rookie RB Andre Williams, who galloped for over 2000 yards at Boston College last year.

Meanwhile, the Eagles special teams figures to be a huge difference maker again. Philadelphia’s unit has scored touchdowns in back-to-back weeks. That type of production from the special teams hasn’t been seen in decades for the Eagles. New York also has to keep their eyes on Darren Sproles, who has a couple of huge punt returns already this season.

Line: Philadelphia -3
Pick: Philadelphia, 30-26

Now, to the picks…

Last week: 10-4
2014 Season: 31-27

Indianapolis Colts (3-2) AT Houston Texans (3-2) – Colts -2.5

Prediction: Indianapolis, 23-17. Neither of these teams wow me on offense. While Andrew Luck is clearly one of the best in the business, he still turns the ball over too much to be considered a championship caliber signal caller this early in his career. Luck vs. Watt makes Thursday night must-see-TV.

Denver Broncos (3-1) AT New York Jets (1-4) – Broncos -9.5

Prediction: Denver, 41-20. The Jets came into this season knowing their offense would have its issues. I’m sure they didn’t expect it to be this bad. To add insult to injury, the Jets’ defense, once considered elite, is among the worst in the league against the pass. That doesn’t bode well against the loaded Broncos and Peyton Manning.

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) AT Cleveland Browns (2-2) – Browns -2

Prediction: Pittsburgh, 20-17. The Browns and Steelers play for the second time already this season. Cleveland shocked Tennessee with a magnificent comeback a week ago. This week, I expect Pittsburgh’s dominance over Cleveland to continue. Though, it should be a relatively competitive affair.

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) AT Tennessee Titans (1-4) – Titans -5

Prediction: Jacksonville, 21-20. In the stinker of the week, AFC South rivals meet for a chance at third place basically by default. Jacksonville is the pick here mostly because I like Blake Bortles a whole lot more than Charlie Whitehurst, who replaces the injured (surprise, surprise) Jake Locker. It’s becoming evident that Tennessee will have to draft a QB next year. Marcus Mariota, anyone?

Baltimore Ravens (3-2) AT Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4) – Baltimore -3.5

Prediction: Tampa Bay, 23-17. Baltimore’s inconsistency this season is unrivaled. Every game they’ve played in has been at least marginally competitive. Yet, every time I watch them, I feel like they’re completely lost out there. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has really picked it up the last few weeks. They came back to upset Pittsburgh then nearly shocked the Saints in the Superdome. I’ll go with the surging Buccaneers to get their first home win of the season.

Detroit Lions (3-2) AT Minnesota Vikings (2-3) – Lions -2

Prediction: Minnesota, 26-24. This sets up as a perfect storm for the Vikings. They’re at home. The Lions might be without Calvin Johnson (and even if he plays, he won’t nearly be full strength); and Teddy Bridgewater figures to suit up. Minnesota in the upset.

New England Patriots (3-2) AT Buffalo Bills (3-2) – Patriots -3

Prediction: New England, 20-19. That’s right. The Bills will cover this spread despite Kyle Orton under center and Bill Belichick and Tom Brady on the other sideline. The Patriots’ offensive inconsistencies can be traced back to a decade of pathetic draft choices by Belichick on that side of the ball. Their inability to put up points will keep Buffalo in the game, even if I don’t think Orton has it in him to pull out a victory.

Carolina Panthers (3-2) AT Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) – Bengals -6.5

Prediction: Cincinnati, 24-17. This is exactly the type of game that Andy Dalton can win. A 1:00 PM home game in October. The Bengals proved they weren’t ready for primetime last week. Then again, neither are the Panthers, who can’t seem to get out of their own way on defense this season. Bengals will take this one and it won’t be as close as many Panthers fans think.

Green Bay Packers (3-2) AT Miami Dolphins (2-2) – Packers -3

Prediction: Miami, 27-21. The Packers are 1-2 on the road this year, with their only win coming against the Bears. Teams tend to have trouble going to South Florida during the first half f the season, as the heat and humidity causes lots of problems. The Packers will be no different, as they’ll fall to 3-3 with a road defeat in South Beach.

San Diego Chargers (4-1) AT Oakland Raiders (0-4) – Chargers -7.5

Prediction: San Diego, 31-17. Normally, I’d side with the home team in an interdivision game with this high of a spread. But, the Raiders are just that bad. Not only are they coming out of the bye week following a blowout against Miami in London. But, they’ve got Tony Sparano at coach now after Dennis Allen was fired following 36 games at the helm. The Chargers’ time is now. They’ll take care of business and put the pressure on Denver early in the season.

Chicago Bears (2-3) AT Atlanta Falcons (2-3) – Falcons -3

Prediction: Bears, 34-31. One of these teams, the Bears, is performing admirably on the road (2-1). The other, the Falcons, can’t lose at home (2-0). Something’s got to give, right? In this game that features two spectacular offenses, I expect Jay Cutler and the Bears to even their record at 3-3 thanks to an aerial assault that will pick on Atlanta’s mediocre secondary.

Dallas Cowboys (4-1) AT Seattle Seahawks (3-1) – Seahawks -9

Prediction: Seattle, 29-21. I don’t think this is a blowout. But, the amount of people that believe in Dallas is mind boggling. First of all, haven’t we heard this story before? Every year, the Cowboys get off to a good start; and every year they fall apart in December. Also, since when did beating Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jake Locker, Austin Davis, and the artist formerly known as Drew Brees make anyone a contender? Dallas may hold their own against Seattle. But, anyone thinking this is the year they finally put it together is kidding themselves.

Washington Redskins (1-4) AT Arizona Cardinals (3-1) – Cardinals -3.5

Prediction: Arizona, 26-20. It’s pretty insulting for Arizona to be favored by only 3.5 points against a team whose only victory came against Jacksonville. The Redskins have been smacked around by Philadelphia, New York, Seattle, and Houston. In other words, any half decent team this season has taken Washington to the woodshed. Why should it be any different this Sunday?

San Francisco 49ers (3-2) AT St. Louis Rams (1-3) – San Francisco -3.5

Prediction: San Francisco, 30-20. Normally, I’d like the home team to cover a spread like this. But, the Rams’ defense just has not put together enough of a pass rush to contain Colin Kaepernick, especially when he breaks contain outside the pocket. Their only hope will be outscoring San Francisco. Which can be done. But, they’d need Austin Davis to play as well as he did during Sunday’s fourth quarter throughout the entirety of the game. I just don’t see it happening.

austindavis

pariseIn less than 24-hours, the 2014-15 NHL season will get underway when the Philadelphia Flyers take on the Boston Bruins from TD Garden. This storied rivalry begins what promises to be yet another electric campaign on the ice. 30 teams enter, with at least half believing they have the goods to capture Lord Stanley’s hardware.

The defending champion Los Angeles Kings are back. With a lineup chock full of talent, they’ll undoubtedly contend once again out West. Joining them in a crowded field of contenders are Chicago, Minnesota, Anaheim, Boston, and Pittsburgh. Darkhorses, meanwhile, are destined to emerge. Teams like New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, and Colorado all have enough faith in their rosters to believe that this could be their year.

But, who actually will emerge come June, 2015 as the best-of-the-best? SkoodSports takes a look ahead at what should be another phenomenal NHL season:

Atlantic Division

1. Montreal Canadiens
2. Boston Bruins
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
6. Florida Panthers
7. Ottawa Senators
8. Buffalo Sabres

The Canadiens captured this division’s playoff bracket last season. Until Boston or Tampa prove that they can beat PK Subban and Carey Price, they are the smart pick to come out on top of a top-heavy division…The Bruins are finally seeing their constant run of success come back to bite them in the form of cap difficulties. Last week’s trade of Johnny Boychuk was just the most recent casualty. Boston has the defensive depth to survive. But, they’ll need their young blue liners to play way above their heads if they have Cup dreams…Tampa Bay is the sexy pick to win this division going into the season. The play of Ben Bishop a year ago, coupled with the team’s young, improving core make them a bonafide contender in the eyes of many. But, until the Lightning find consistency on defense, they’ll still play third wheel to the more traditional markets above them…The Red Wings were once considered a shoe-in for the playoffs. If they hope to overcome a difficult division, they’ll need to stay healthy, something Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have had difficulty doing…Toronto remains one of those teams that gets overrated by their fanbase and underrated by the other 29 fanbases in the league. There’s undoubtedly talent there. But, their deficiencies far outweigh the positives north of the border…Florida, Ottawa, and Buffalo are all firmly entrenched in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, as they would need a slew of things to go right before they could even be considered remote contenders.

Metropolitan Division

1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Columbus Blue Jackets
3. New York Islanders
4. Philadelphia Flyers*
5. New York Rangers*
6. Washington Capitals
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Carolina Hurricanes

Pittsburgh’s lack of blue line depth will be a killer come playoff time. But, their offensive prowess should be enough to capture the Metropolitan as long as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin stay healthy…The Blue Jackets and Islanders are two of the youngest and swiftest improving franchises in the league. Columbus gave the Penguins all they could handle last year, and will only get better with youngsters like Ryan Johansen and Sergei Bobrovsky leading the way. The Islanders, meanwhile, boosted their blueline by landing Boychuk last weekend. That, and their previous acquisition of Jaroslav Halak should put them over the more established franchises to capture their second playoff berth in three years…Philadelphia is likely in a transition year, as their aging defense makes way for their burgeoning crop of talented back-end depth in the AHL and juniors…The Rangers may have won the Eastern Conference last year. But, a long offseason of losses will impact the team adversely; as will the tumultuous reality of a Stanley Cup hangover… Many still have faith in Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. I, on the other hand, think that their putrid signings of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen will only serve to send them into cap hell by 2018. The short term improvement at defense won’t be enough to overcome weak offensive depth…The bottom feeders figure to be New Jersey and Carolina. Though, the former may have a fighter’s chance at contending for a playoff spot.

Central Division

1. Chicago Blackhawks
2. Minnesota Wild
3. Dallas Stars
4. Colorado Avalanche*
5. St. Louis Blues*
6. Nashville Predators
7. Winnipeg Jets

The Blackhawks gambled in their sizable investments to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane this offseason. That could end up hurting them in the long run. But, 2014-15 figures to be yet another banner season for a team that has to be considered the most complete in hockey…Minnesota nearly made it to the Western Conference Finals with Ilya Bryzgalov in net last season. A return to form of Niklas Backstrom as well as the addition of proven playoff performer Thomas Vanek should send this young franchise deep into the playoffs once again…Dallas brought in Jason Spezza to give them one of the best 1-2 punches at center in the league (along with Tyler Seguin). If Dallas’ defense can build upon where they left off last year, this is a darkhorse in a crowded division…Colorado was one of the feel good stories of the season, along with the emergence of young goalie Semyon Varlamov (who should have won the Vezina Trophy). Expect them to have a little more trouble this season, though a return to the playoffs looks likely…St. Louis gambled by dealing for Ryan Miller last offseason. The former Olympic star is now in Vancouver, and the Blues are going to feel the burn of a disappointing campaign that still might include a playoff berth thanks to a weak Pacific Division…Nashville brought in James Neal from Pittsburgh to try and finally get some offense in The Music City. They’ll need to find a center that can pass him the puck first…Finally, we have the Winnipeg Jets, who once again sat on their hands most of the offseason and decided to stick with Ondrej Pavelec in net. They’d need hell to freeze over twice if they’re to contend in this grueling division.

Pacific Division

1. Anaheim Ducks
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. San Jose Sharks
4. Arizona Coyotes
5. Edmonton Oilers
6. Vancouver Canucks
7. Calgary Flames

Anaheim and Los Angeles are far-and-away the cream of the crop in the Pacific. The Ducks landed former Canucks star C Ryan Kesler to add to an already impressive roster. Meanwhile, the Kings are the defending champions, and bring back enough of their talented roster to be considered candidates for a repeat. San Jose, always a contender, could see a bit of a regression just based on their aging core. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton aren’t getting any younger. Though, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski remain two of the best forwards in the game. If Antti Niemi can continue to put up Vezina like numbers, the Sharks could contend once again…The franchise formerly known as Phoenix, the Arizona Coyotes, changed their name in order to better represent their state as a whole. That’s not likely to help them on the ice, where a talented defense is handicapped by an inconsistent top-six…Finally, Canada will not be enjoying their blistery winter, as all three of Edmonton, Vancouver, and Calgary are likely to be in the lottery next spring.

Awards

Hart Trophy – C Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Norris Trophy – D PK Subban, Montreal Canadiens
Vezina Trophy – G Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Jack Adams Award
 Mike Yeo, Minnesota Wild
Conn Smythe Trophy LW Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
Art Ross Trophy – C Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Rocket Richard Trophy – C Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Calder Trophy - C/LW Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning

Playoff Predictions

First Round

Montreal Canadiens OVER New York Rangers in 6
Boston Bruins OVER Tampa Bay Lightning in 7

Philadelphia Flyers OVER Pittsburgh Penguins in 7
Columbus Blue Jackets OVER New York Islanders in 5

Anaheim Ducks OVER St. Louis Blues in 4
Los Angeles Kings OVER San Jose Sharks in 6

Chicago Blackhawks OVER Colorado Avalanche in 5
Minnesota Wild OVER Dallas Stars in 7

Quarterfinals

Montreal Canadiens OVER Boston Bruins in 6
Columbus Blue Jackets OVER Philadelphia Flyers in 7

Anaheim Ducks OVER Los Angeles Kings in 5
Minnesota Wild OVER Chicago Blackhawks in 6

Semifinals

Columbus Blue Jackets OVER Montreal Canadiens in 6
Minnesota Wild OVER Anaheim Ducks in 7

Stanley Cup Final

Minnesota Wild OVER Columbus Blue Jackets in 6

For the Philadelphia Eagles offense, week four was one to forget. Santa Clara, California was the host of a 26-21, knock down, drag out affair between Chip Kelly’s club and the San Francisco 49ers. Despite terrific performances by the team’s defense and special teams, Philadelphia was unable to come back home with a victory; and that failure lies solely with the offense and their inability to put together anything resembling a cohesive drive until late in the fourth quarter.

lane johnsonUp until the waning minutes, Philadelphia’s offensive unit had yet to even cross into San Francisco territory. Yet, this game probably should have been a victory. 3rd and goal from the 49ers’ 2-yard line with 2-minutes remaining, and the Eagles were unable to punch the football into the endzone. That’s some Andy Reid circa 2009 type futility; and it rests solely on the shoulders of Kelly, who chose back-to-back passing plays despite having two of the best running backs in football.

Yes, Philadelphia was limited all afternoon on the ground. But, there’s no reason not to at least attempt a run on third down. After all, it’s not as though their vaunted passing attack was picking up where the running game failed. Neither LeSean McCoy or Nick Foles were able to perform to their abilities thanks to yet another putrid performance behind the team’s makeshift offensive line.

Thankfully, second-year RT Lane Johnson (pictured) returns from suspension this week. This is big news for two reasons. First, Johnson is clearly head-and-shoulders above the reserves that Kelly had out there the last few weeks. The former Oklahoma Sooner emerged late last year as one of the most improved players from the 2013 draft 49ersfolesclass. Reports state that Johnson is in the best shape of his life and Philadelphia is going to need him to hit the ground running against a capable St. Louis Rams pass rush. Second, the return of Johnson allows veteran lineman Todd Herremans to move back inside to right guard. Ergo, Philadelphia gains back two of the starting positions that helped lead them to the best rushing performance in team history a year ago.

That cohesiveness on the offensive front will be critical this Sunday, when the Eagles play host to the Rams. St. Louis’
offense leaves much to be desired, especially with Sam Bradford out for the season with a knee injury. Young QB Austin Davis has looked impressive in limited action. But, there’s absolutely no way the Rams’ offense can keep up with Philadelphia’s if the latter is clicking on its usual cylinders. On defense, the Rams are led by Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree, two former high draft picks who continue to blossom into playmakers in St. Louis’ front-seven. If McCoy is going to finally average more than 1.5 yards per carry, Johnson and Co. are going to need to prove an ability to stop these aggressive competitors.

Line: Philadelphia -7
Pick: Philadelphia, 27-17

And now on to the rest of this week’s picks:

Last Week: 5-8
This Season: 21-23

Minnesota Vikings (2-2) AT Green Bay Packers (2-2) – Green Bay -8.5

Prediction: Green Bay, 34-16. History tells us that Thursday Night Football is almost always a one-sided affair. With Teddy Bridgewater banged up and questionable, and the Packers hitting their stride last Thursday, Green Bay fans will be able to R-E-L-A-X after another big divisional victory.

Chicago Bears (2-2) AT Carolina Panthers (2-2) – Carolina -2.5

Prediction: Carolina, 26-23. The Panthers’ defense was embarrassed last week by Steve Smith and the Ravens. While the Bears do present some challenges with their tall receivers, this is a statement game for a Panthers team who should be able to win the NFC South once again with just a little consistency from QB Cam Newton.

Cleveland Browns (2-2) AT Tennessee Titans (1-3) – Titans -2

Prediction: Cleveland, 26-14. My how long ago week one must seem for the Titans, who have been blown away in three straight games since an opening day road win over Kansas City. Tennessee’s offense is brutal, and can’t get out of their own way. Meanwhile, Cleveland continues to look better with each passing game, and the aid of the bye week should present them with enough of an advantage to get by Tennessee with relative ease.

Atlanta Falcons (2-2) AT New York Giants (2-2) – Giants -2

Prediction: Giants, 27-24. There may not be a more flaky duo than these two. Atlanta can’t seem to win on the road, as their two wins this season have come at the Georgia Dome with their two defeats coming outdoors. Meanwhile, the Giants, who looked like the Bad News Bears during the season’s first couple of games, are suddenly seeing their offense develop some much needed chemistry. If this game were in Atlanta, it would be a different story. But, the Giants should be able to move the ball with ease against a Falcons’ defense that allowed over 40-points to a rookie QB last week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) AT New Orleans Saints (1-3) – Saints -10.5

Prediction: Saints, 24-17. First of all, what a performance by Tampa Bay to come back and beat Pittsburgh on the road last Sunday. That was the type of signature win that can turn a season around. The only problem is that Tampa lost rookie WR Mike Evans for a couple of games in that one. So, they’ll be undermanned in a hostile environment this week. On the other hand, the Saints have proven time-and-time again this season that they’re far from the well-oiled offensive machine we’ve seen in years past. It will be a cold day in hell before I pick the Saints to cover double digits again, especially after they were so viciously pounded by Dallas on Sunday night.

Houston Texans (3-1) AT Dallas Cowboys (3-1) – Dallas -6

Prediction: Dallas, 30-26. The Cowboys have been one of the most surprising teams in the early going. After years of disappointment following overhyped preseasons, the Cowboys were finally flying under-the-radar heading into 2014. That change in the typical aura around the team has brought upon a brilliant start, as Dallas’ offense continues to click on all cylinders. Tony Romo will have to keep an eye out for JJ Watt, who had a pick-six last week. But, the Cowboys are at home, and they easily have the better offense. I do expect a narrow game, however.

Buffalo Bills (2-2) AT Detroit Lions (3-1) – Detroit, -7

Prediction: Detroit, 28-21. One of the more curious coaching decisions this season came this week, when Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone benched 2013 first round pick QB EJ Manuel for veteran journeyman Kyle Orton. Buffalo, believing that they can contend in a weak AFC East, just destroyed the confidence of their young signal caller. That type of rash move is exactly the type of decision that a team like Buffalo makes. It’s also the type of decision that will get a coach fired if it doesn’t pan out. Good luck, coach. You’re going to need it in Detroit, where Megatron and Matt Stafford promise to reign this weekend.

Baltimore Ravens (3-1) AT Indianapolis Colts (2-2) – Colts -3.5

Prediction: Baltimore, 24-21. It seems like everyone in Vegas is wildly underrating Baltimore, whose only loss this season was to the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals. Since then, the Ravens’ defense has looked stellar in victories over Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and last week’s blowout vs. Carolina. Meanwhile, Indianapolis has rebounded against their pathetic divisional rivals after an 0-2 start. Sorry, Andrew Luck, the Ravens aren’t the Jaguars or Titans. Expect at least a couple of “Luck Specials,” aka back-breaking interceptions that the media ignores for some reason, as the Ravens win on the road.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) AT Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4) – Pittsburgh -6.5

Prediction: Pittsburgh, 31-17. The Jaguars are 0-4 and have very little to look forward to this season besides the fact that they’re not the worst team in the NFL (thanks, Raiders). Blake Bortles has looked relatively decent so far in two games. So, at least there’s that. Meanwhile, the Steelers are coming off a back-breaking last second loss to the previously winless Tampa Bay Bucs. If Pittsburgh loses back-to-back games vs. winless Florida franchises, they might as well replace the “Steel Curtain” with satin.

pat peterson

Arizona Cardinals (3-0) AT Denver Broncos (2-1) – Denver -7

Prediction: Denver, 27-13. In what promises to be a sneaky good game, the undefeated Arizona Cardinals meet the defending AFC champions with both teams coming off their bye week. While I do think that Arizona’s defense is good enough to at least limit Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ offense. I don’t think that their makeshift passing game has enough juice to keep up.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) AT San Francisco 49ers (2-2) – San Francisco -6

Prediction: San Francisco, 23-19. This is another stellar late-afternoon game as two teams coming off season saving victories collie. The 49ers’ offense didn’t exactly look like world beaters a week ago. But, the defense, most notably the run defense, was unparalleled. Meanwhile, Kansas City bring one of the best rushing attacks in football with a healthy Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis. Expect a lot of ground-and-pound as Alex Smith makes his return to Bay Area.

New York Jets (1-3) AT San Diego Chargers (3-1) – San Diego -6.5

Prediction: San Diego, 20-17. The Jets know that their season rests on this game. While the AFC East is a garbage can of mediocrity, a 1-4 start would be crippling. On the other hand, San Diego is enjoying their finest start in years, and head coach Mike McCoy is proving why the Chargers gave him that role. After three consecutive impressive performances, San Diego’s offense could have some trouble against the Jets’ vaunted front-seven. Still, Geno Smith will find a way to throw a gut punching interception at the worst possible moment.

New England Patriots v Kanas City Chiefs

Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) AT New England Patriots (2-2) – Cincinnati -1

Prediction: Cincinnati, 27-26. The Patriots aren’t as bad as they looked last week. Likewise, the Bengals probably aren’t as good as they’ve looked over the first month of the season. New England’s collective psyche is riding on Tom Brady’s ability to keep the Patriots in this Sunday’s game. But, the real story is the poor play by Darrelle Revis, whom everyone believed to be the missing piece to Belichick’s Super Bowl puzzle. So far, Revis has been mediocre. If that continues against AJ Green and the Bengals, it could be a long night and an even longer season for Bostonians.

Seattle Seahawks (2-1) AT Washington Redskins (1-3) – Seattle -7

Prediction: Seattle, 27-11. By the time this game gets underway, Seattle will have had 15-days between contests. That type of R’n’R should be enough to get their defense back on track after a couple of average performances against San Diego and Denver. On the other side, the Redskins will also have some extra rest, having last been trounced by the Giants a week ago. If Washington is going to stand a chance, they’ll need to see a side of Kirk Cousins they haven’t seen before.

NFL Week 4 Predictions

Posted: September 25, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

For the first time in 10-years, the Philadelphia Eagles have begun their season 3-0. They join idle Arizona and Cincinnati as the only undefeated teams remaining in the NFL. This success, coupled with the magnitude of the comebacks during the course of this season’s first month, has Philadelphia kneeling at the shrine of Chip Kelly.

folesSince the second half of last season began, the Eagles are 10-2 (including playoffs). That’s the type of success that starts garnering Coach of the Year consideration. That the Eagles’ offense is near the top of the league and the defense is towards the bottom shouldn’t surprise anyone. But, what should be a pleasant surprise to many is the success of Philadelphia’s special teams so far this season. Rookie K Cody Parkey is now 8-9, including two 50+ yard field goals. Meanwhile, the Eagles saw reserve RB Chris Polk return the Eagles’ first kickoff for a touchdown since 2008, a staggering streak that took the entirety of the Obama regime to snap. This special teams success was a dramatic reason why the Eagles were able to upend the Washington Redskins last Sunday, keeping themselves on top of the NFC East pecking order.

It doesn’t get any easier this weekend, at least in the eyes of the pundits. This early in the season, many spreads are based largely on past successes, rather than recent results. For evidence of that, one only has to look at New Orleans (1-2) being favored over Dallas (2-1) despite being on the road and Philadelphia’s 5 point deficit in Santa Clara. Now, there’s no doubt that both of those games should be tight. But, the success of both the Cowboys and the Eagles this season to overcome deficits and win football games has got to be taken into just as much if not more consideration than the Saints and 49ers success last season.

Colin Kaepernick, while a solid quarterback, isn’t going to beat anyone with his arm. If Philadelphia is able to limit the 49ers’ ground game (as they have done most of this season), they should be in prime position to pull the upset. This isn’t the same San Francisco defense that dominated opponents from 2011-2013. Instead, this is a banged up unit with a suspended star (Aldon Smith) and reserves making critical mental mistakes at the worst of times. An Eagles victory on Sunday could be the linchpin that propels them to a 6-0 mark at the bye week with easier matchups vs. St. Louis and at New York standing in their way.

Last week: 8-8
Season: 16-15

New York Giants (1-2) AT Washington Redskins (1-2) – Redskins -3.5

Prediction: Redskins, 27-17. The Giants and Redskins looked to be heading in polar opposite directions going into week 3. At 0-2, the Giants looked like a potential top-5 team in next year’s NFL Draft. Instead, they were able to overcome a rusty Ryan Fitzpatrick en route to their first victory over Houston. The Redskins, likewise, sent their season into flux with a tough 3-point loss in Philadelphia. If the Redskins lose this one at home, I’d be shocked. They’re just much more talented than New York at this point.

Miami Dolphins (1-2) AT Oakland Raiders (0-3) – Dolphins -3.5

Prediction: Dolphins, 24-13. If Roger Goodell wants to grow the game in Europe, sending these two dilapidated offenses is probably not the best method. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who drafted Ryan Tannehill in 2012, is already jumping ship on the young quarterback. But, Miami’s talent level widely eclipses Oakland’s, and the Raiders’ offense will find it difficult putting the ball in the end zone at Wembley.

rodgers

Green Bay Packers (1-2) AT Chicago Bears (2-1) – Packers -1.5

Prediction: Bears, 23-20. In what largely amounts to a must-win for Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers will have to overcome what has been a pathetic performance by his offensive line and running game. That spells doom against Chicago, who has already shown drastic improvement on defense from last season. Expect Brandon Marshall to bounce back from a tough Monday night performance as Chicago sends Green Bay to a disappointing 1-3.

Buffalo Bills (2-1) AT Houston Texans (2-1) – Texans -3

Prediction: Buffalo, 16-13. In a matchup of solid defenses that carry mediocre offenses, these two surprise teams will go right down to the wire in Texas. This game could really go either way. But, I like the Bills to come out on top, and barely, in this one.

Tennessee Titans (1-2) AT Indianapolis Colts (1-2) – Colts -7.5

Prediction: Colts, 34-16. Tennessee, with the exception of their week one win in Kansas City, has looked as putrid as any team in the league so far. Their defense can’t tackle or cover, and the offense is as stagnant as Rob Ryan after thanksgiving dinner. If Indy can’t take this one, it may be time to look at the AFC South as the worst division in pro football.

Carolina Panthers (2-1) AT Baltimore Ravens (2-1) – Ravens -3.5

Prediction: Panthers, 23-20. What a great game this should be with two improving defenses and offenses that rely on the running game. Baltimore overcame a tough loss on opening day to take down two divisional rivals in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. They’ll get their first taste of the NFC with a matchup against Cam Newton and the Panthers. I liked Carolina last week and was burned. So, I’ll refuse to learn from my mistakes and stick with them this Sunday.

Detroit Lions (2-1) AT New York Jets (1-2) – Lions -1.5

Prediction: Lions, 26-16. I really don’t understand the hype that Vegas is giving the Jets so far this season. They were favored last week against Chicago, a game in which they fell behind 14-0 in the first few minutes and never recovered. Meanwhile, the offensively laden Detroit Lions come to town to take on one of the most pathetic offenses so far, and it’s a toss up. I’ll take Stafford and the Lions to raise the proverbial roof at MetLife Stadium en route to victory.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) AT Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) – Steelers -7.5

Prediction: Steelers, 21-14. Based on Tampa Bay’s debacle last week, this should easily be Pittsburgh’s game. The problem is that the NFL doesn’t work that way, and results change drastically on a weekly basis. Tampa also had 10-days to prepare for a Steelers team that has been known to play down to its competition in recent years. I think Pittsburgh will hold on. But, this will be closer than people think.

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) AT San Diego Chargers (2-1) – Chargers -13

Prediction: Chargers, 34-20. If it weren’t for a 4th quarter collapse in Arizona, it would be San Diego and not the Cardinals sitting pretty at 3-0. Regardless, it would take a miracle for Jacksonville to get their first win this week, as the Jags are forced to travel cross-country for a matchup against a San Diego team that is coming off back-to-back quality victories. Blake Bortles is expected to make his first start. But, the rookie mistakes that have plagued so many before him will likely aid San Diego in their effort to cover the largest spread of the week.

Atlanta Falcons (2-1) AT Minnesota Vikings (1-2) – Falcons -3

Prediction: Falcons, 27-17. Teddy Bridgewater will make his first career start against a Falcons team that resembles Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde so far. The Falcons have looked like a venerable contender at times, with divisional wins over Tampa and New Orleans sandwiched around a blowout loss to Cincinnati. When the Falcons are at home, they’re a tough nut to crack. But, when they’re outdoors, anything could happen. I could easily see Bridgewater rallying the Vikings in this one. But, the rookie would have to play lights out to overcome a talented Falcons offense.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) AT San Francisco 49ers (1-2) – 49ers -4.5

Prediction: Eagles, 26-24. This spread was at 5 as recently as this morning. But, Vegas appears to have gotten a late run of Eagles bets. The fact of the matter is that this spread is based almost entirely on the location of the game and the past success of San Francisco. These units could not be more polar opposite so far. The 49ers, juggernauts of the NFC for three years, has blown consecutive second half leads en route to a 1-2 record. Even their win over the Cowboys was almost entirely fueled by their defense’s ability to force Tony Romo turnovers. The offense has done absolutely nothing after halftime, and their considerably consistent mental errors have left San Francisco on the brink of collapse. Meanwhile, the Eagles have the most efficient offense in the league, and a defensive unit that comes out energized after the half. Expect San Francisco to take a first half lead before blowing it late, with a Cody Parkey game winning field goal sending Philadelphia to 4-0.

New Orleans Saints (1-2) AT Dallas Cowboys (2-1) – Saints -3

Prediction: Saints, 34-31. New Orleans put a record setting beatdown on Dallas last season on Sunday Night Football. They’ll look to do it again from Jerry World. But, don’t count out Dallas, who has forced turnovers to keep their beleaguered defense off the field for long stretches. Meanwhile, Romo and that offense, when hanging onto the ball, are as deadly as ever thanks to their utilization of DeMarco Murray. This will be a close game.

New England Patriots (2-1) AT Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) – Patriots -3.5

Prediction: Patriots, 20-10. I would typically have some concern over a primetime game played in Kansas City with the road team possessing perhaps the worst offensive line (when healthy) in football. But, this is Bill Belichick vs. Andy Reid we’re talking about. We’ve seen this story before. Kansas City will probably have a chance to come back in the fourth. But, Reid will have already burned all three of his timeouts and will show no urgency in the no-huddle offense.