Saturday, November 06, 2010

Week 9 picks,

It's that time. Week 9 picks: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons: You have to give credit to the Bucs' for turning themselves around this year. But before you get carried away you also have to consider that the Bucs' victories have come against the Browns, the Panthers, the Bengals, the Rams and the Cardinals. Their two losses were to the Steelers and the Saints, who both put up 30+ points and held the Buc's to 19 points over the course of two games. With that in mind, I'm taking Atlanta. Falcons win. Miami Dolphins @ Baltimore Ravens: Every week there's usually a toughie for good reasons (as opposed to bad, like a Panthers/Cardinals game). This is it. Both teams have legitimate claims to being good enough to make the play offs, and potentially this game could be a pivotal moment in their respective seasons, telling us a lot about who they are as football teams. Now as much as I like the Dolphins and despite their success on the road this year, I have to side with Baltimore. I'm still not convinced by their offense, but that defense is as tough as they come. Ravens win. Chicago Bears @ Buffalo Bills: It's a bit like one of those movies where everything has been going wrong for the protagonists and now it's time for them to make a stand and finally turn the tide etc, etc. This is that moment for the Bills. Their offense has been improving steadily. Superb LB Paul Posluszny finally got some main stream recognition on TV (!!). Now is the time for the Bills to strike and claim their first win against a Bears team that does very little except give up sacks, score the occasional special teams return TD and forces a few fumbles. Bills win (C'MON BUFFALO!!). New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers: Just for the record, I don't hate Darren Sharper. I just hate it when people describe him as the greatest thing to happen to defense since Ronnie Lott; because he's not. A good example of this is Sharpers fumble recovery last week against the Steelers. The ball was knocked loose and Sharper caught it. It was largely luck; the ball travelled his way; he's a safety so he was deep and coming to make the tackle etc. But the way people have been going on about it, you'd be forgiven for thinking Sharper was lined up at Nose Tackle and ran 80 yards back to make the play due to the almost mythical catch-all statement of "having a nose for the ball". Anyway, the Panthers suck so I'm backing New Orleans. Saints win. New England Patriots @ Cleveland Browns: Eric Mangini faces off against his old mentor.... again. This is a 'rivalry' that I think might have largely run its course. Naturally there has been an attempt to build it up, but with Mangini in Cleveland you never get that sense that he's going to pull off an upset. At least I don't. Patriots win. New York Jets @ Detroit Lions: Quite an interesting battle on the cards as the Jets face off with the Lions. The Jets -- lead by Head Coach Rex Ryan -- have become famous for their defense. But this year it's been the Lions D making waves. They're tied at sixth for most team sacks (23). Ndamukong Suh is tied for third among defensive linemen in individual sacks (6.5). The Lions bring just as much to this game on that side of the ball as the Jets. Perhaps crucially, they bring more on the other side. Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense have been off the pace lately, culminating with a shutout against the Packers last week. The Lions look ready to unleash a juggernaut on a tough opponent to prove their season has been no fluke. I think Detroit might just have enough to take this, which is something I would never have said coming into the season. Lions win. San Diego Chargers @ Houston Texans: The Chargers special teams has taken a ton of criticism in recent weeks, pretty much all of it deserved. But the fact remains that the Chargers lead the league in total offensive yards per game (they're 26 yards ahead of the Colts). They lead the league in passing yards. Surprisingly given their record, they also lead the league in fewest defensive yards allowed per game. They are the top ranked defense against the pass. And they're the second ranked defense against the run (behind the Steelers). In fact, if you take away the special teams mishaps, it turns out that the Chargers are statistically pretty much the best team in the NFL right now. And given the crappy nature of the Texans defense, I have to back San Diego in this one. Chargers win. Arizona Cardinals @ Minnesota Vikings: Forget about Randy Moss. Forget about Favre or Tavaris Jackson. Forget about Brad Childress. This isn't about the Vikings. This is entirely about how terrible the 'Cradinals' are. Because they are terrible. It doesn't matter who plays QB for them, the fact is that Arizona are just plain shocking this year. A big reason for that is their defense. In 2008 and 2009, the Cardinals defense was a key component of their success. This season their defense has been almost as much of a liability as a Derek Anderson deep ball. The Vikings should be able to take this game, even if they fall over themselves to try and chuck it away. Vikings win. New York Giants @ Seattle Seahawks: I can imagine Matt Hasselbeck is locked away in a cupboard somewhere. He's quietly talking to god, thanking him. Meanwhile Charlie Whitehurst is cruising around the office with a grin on his face now that he's going to be starting at QB. Unlike Hasselbeck, Whitehurst (at least in this bizarre dream I'm having) hasn't seen the schedule and doesn't realise who's up next. 'Cos it's the Giants. And they kill quarterbacks. So far I think they've tallied 5 QBs who failed to play in their teams next game due to injuries inflicted at the hands of the Giants defense (I wonder if Favre has looked at the schedule for week 14 yet?). The Giants offense is also finding a rhythm. They're beginning to blend their passing and running games together in a beautiful offensive melody and it should be enough to see off the Seahawks. Giants win. Kansas City Chiefs @ Oakland Raiders: At the start of the season every TV network in the states would have been looking at this game and crossing their fingers, hoping to god that they didn't get stuck with this one. It had boring, basement battle written all over it. Yet here we are, in November, looking at this game and saying "this could decide the AFC West". Yes, this is not a dream. You're awake and yes, the Chiefs and Raiders will play this weekend for the right to sit atop the AFC West. The Raiders have lived largely off their offense, the Chiefs off their defense. This is a true strength versus strength clash. Personally I think the Chiefs strength is a little stronger than the Raiders strength. If that makes sense. If not, screw it. Chiefs win. Indianapolis Colts @ Philadelphia Eagles: The Colts were beaten up heading into week 8. They've since got even more beaten up and will now go into their week 9 game missing a score of key players (WR Anthony Gonzalez has been placed on season ending injured reserve..... again). So the question is whether the Eagles can capitalise. I'm very cautious about saying yes. We've seen back ups walk onto the Colts team and be made to look like all pros by Peyton Manning. LB Pat Angerer has proven to be a sufficient replacement for Clint Session. That said, I do like the Eagles. They have a lot of good things going for them on both sides of the ball. Just how good will be put to the test this Sunday. Eagles win. Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers: One win. That's what the Cowboys have mustered at Lambeau Field since 1960. There is no hint or suggestion that they will break that run this weekend. They were simply shocking against the Jaguars. The Jaguars for crying out loud. I'm worried about Aaron Rodgers though. For whatever reason he hasn't looked like himself during the last two games. He seems unnerved, a little cautious and unfocused. But with the aid of his defense, I think the Packers have enough in them to see this one out. Packers win. Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals: So if I was the head coach of a team that was struggling to put wins on the board, the last team I would want to face would be a divisional opponent who we swept last year and thus would have a point to prove. And that's precisely the situation facing the Bengals on Monday Night. Having lost to the Saints as well last Sunday, Big Ben Roethlisberger and co. will be on a mission. They need a jolt to keep their season flowing and unfortunately (because I picked Cincinnati to win the division) I can't see the Bengals doing it. Steelers win. Have a great day everyone.

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