You know… these last-minute losses by teams who are my upset special picks are beginning to get annoying. Last week, San Diego blows it on a blocked field goal. The previous week, the Giants lose in overtime at Dallas. Two week before that, Tennessee comes within four touchdowns of Indianapolis…
Oh, you caught that last one did you?
Anyway, we’re nearly halfway through the ’05 season, and it’s been fun. Plenty of crazy stuff as always. Let’s go ahead and examine Week 8’s slate…
OVERALL PREDICTIONS, 2005
Straight-Up: 64-38 (63%) ATS: 56-41-3 (58%) Over/Under: 44-55-3 (44%)
Straight-Up: 10-4 ATS: 8-5-1 Over/Under: 4-8-2
* - Estimated line and total.
Miami (2-4) vs. New Orleans (2-5) at Baton Rouge, La.
Line: Saints favored by 3 (total points line is 41)
Series: These teams have met three times since 1990 with the home team winning each time – New Orleans twice.
Dolphins Status Report: Miami lost at home to Kansas City Friday night, 30-20, and is tied with the New York Jets for third in the AFC East, a game behind New England. The Dolphins have lost three in a row.
Saints Status Report: New Orleans was defeated at St. Louis last week, 28-17. The Saints are last in the NFC South and the only club in that division with a losing record.
Other Noteworthy Info: Saints WR Joe Horn remains questionable with a strained hamstring.
Game Summary: A lot is being made of the Saints’ return this week to the state of Louisiana, but the home field of Louisiana State University is familiar territory to Miami coach Nick Saban, and the Dolphins may be better equipped in this game with their superior defense. Slumping QB Gus Frerotte could get well in this game for Miami.
Prediction: DOLPHINS, 20-17
Cleveland (2-4) at Houston (0-6)
Line: Texans favored by 2 (total points line is 37½)
Series: The Browns won both of the previous meetings, including a 22-14 victory at Houston in the 2004 regular season finale (played Jan. 2, 2005).
Browns Status Report: Cleveland lost at home to Detroit last week, 13-10. The Browns are tied with Baltimore for third place in the AFC North, 2½ games behind Cincinnati.
Texans Status Report: Houston lost at home to Indianapolis Sunday, 38-20, after tying the Colts at 14-14 at one point in the second quarter. The Texans are, or course, last in the AFC South.
Other Noteworthy Info: Houston WR Andre Johnson is still listed as questionable, and his status probably won’t be known until gametime.
Game Summary: The Texans are at home, and are desperate… and that might be enough. But while both these teams have trouble scoring points – Houston is last in the NFL in scoring, Cleveland second-to-last – only the Browns can truthfully say they sport a respectable defense. In fact, Cleveland’s D is arguably the most improved unit in the league. And that’s enough for me to take the Browns.
Prediction: BROWNS, 19-14
Green Bay (1-5) at Cincinnati (5-2)
Line: Bengals favored by 9 (total points line is 46)
Series: The Packers have won the last five meetings dating back 21 years.
Packers Status Report: Green Bay squandered a 17-0 lead at Minnesota last week and lost, 23-20, to fall into last place in the NFC North.
Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati was thumped at home by Pittsburgh, 27-13, but remains the AFC North leader, by a half-game over the Steelers.
Other Noteworthy Info: Green Bay RB Ahman Green is out for the season, and will be replaced this week by Tony Fisher. WR Robert Ferguson is out for at least the next four weeks, to be replaced by Antonio Chatman.
Game Summary: If the Packers had won last week, I’d probably have a different take on this game even with the injuries to Green and Ferguson. As it is, there’s no way the Packers’ patchwork attack can keep up, especially with their defense being so unsteady. Even Brett Favre can only do so much. Bengals regroup after the bitter loss to Pittsburgh and win this one going away.
Prediction: BENGALS, 34-17
Oakland (2-4) at Tennessee (2-5)
Line: Titans favored by 3 (total points line is 43)*
Series: The home team has won seven of the last eight in this series, including Oakland’s 40-35 home victory last season. In the most recent meeting at Nashville, the Titans prevailed, 25-20, in 2003.
Raiders Status Report: Oakland whipped visiting Buffalo last week, 34-17, but remains in last place in the AFC West.
Titans Status Report: Tennessee squandered an early lead at Arizona and lost, 20-10. The Titans are in third in the AFC South, five back of unbeaten Indy.
Other Noteworthy Info: Tennessee QB Steve McNair is expected to return this week after sitting out at Arizona.
Game Summary: Although the home team’s dominance in this series is certainly worth considering, what’s more important in my opinion is momentum when you’re talking two relatively even teams. The Titans lost at Arizona in despicable fashion - getting whupped by a team that isn’t considered very good. The Raiders, on the other hand, did some whuppin’ at Buffalo’s expense. The Raiders are winless on the road, true, but that has to end eventually. I’ll go with the team with more offensive firepower as well as the one coming off a victory.
Prediction: RAIDERS, 27-24
Jacksonville (4-2) at St. Louis (3-4)
Line: Even (total points line is 45)*
Series: These teams have played only once, with the Rams winning at home in 2001.
Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville was on a bye last week after upsetting Pittsburgh on the road in OT, 23-17, back on Oct. 16. The Jags are second in the AFC South, two back of Indianapolis.
Rams Status Report: St. Louis outlasted New Orleans at home last week, 28-17. The Rams are second in the NFC West, two games behind Seattle.
Other Noteworthy Info: Jacksonville RB Fred Taylor is expected to return after sitting out the Steelers game. St. Louis QB Marc Bulger is expected to be out one more week, while WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce are both listed as questionable.
Game Summary: Jacksonville’s defense is too sound, and the Rams are too banged up on offense. A refreshed Taylor should put up solid numbers and Jax gets itself a road victory.
Prediction: JAGUARS, 23-17
Washington (4-2) at New York Giants (4-2)
Line: Giants favored by 2 (total points line is 42)
Series: The two squads split home victories last season – Washington rolled at home, 31-7, while the Giants prevailed at The Meadowlands, 20-14. In 2003, the visiting team won both matchups.
Redskins Status Report: Washington routed San Francisco at home Sunday, 52-17. The Redskins are tied with the Giants and Philadelphia for first in the crowded NFC East, with Dallas only a half-game behind.
Giants Status Report: The Giants rallied from a late 13-point deficit to edge Denver at home, 24-23.
Other Noteworthy Info: The Giants are 3-0 at home, the Redskins 1-2 on the road.
Game Summary: Neither of these teams were expected to contend for division honors when the season began but here they are. And this clash should live up to the hype – because it could go either way. Washington’s suddenly pass-freaky offense should have success against the Giants’ iffy secondary, but New York’s balance approach should work for ball control in familiar surrounding. Ultimately, I’m going with the homefield edge.
Prediction: GIANTS, 24-20
Arizona (2-4) at Dallas (4-3)
Line: Cowboys favored by 9 (total points line is 40½)
Series: Dallas has won 13 of the last 14 meetings between these two at Texas Stadium, including a 24-7 victory in the last meeting, in 2003.
Cardinals Status Report: Arizona overcame an early 10-0 deficit at home to beat Tennessee, 20-10. Arizona is third in the NFC West, 2½ games behind Seattle.
Cowboys Status Report: Dallas suffered a heartbreaking loss at Seattle Sunday, 13-10.
Other Noteworthy Info: Arizona QB Kurt Warner has reportedly been cleared by doctors to return, but it’s unclear if he will start this week. Dallas RB Julius Jones is listed as questionable, and with a bye coming up next week, is likely to be out for the second week in a row.
Game Summary: Dallas has owned the Cardinals at home, and the Cowboys have the edge in virtually all the stats that matter.
Predictions: COWBOYS, 30-16
Chicago (3-3) at Detroit (3-3)
Line: Lions favored by 3 (total points line is 32½)
Series: The Bears romped at home in the first meeting this season, 38-6, as Lions QB Joey Harrington threw five interceptions. Detroit had won the previous three meetings, including a 19-13 home victory last season.
Bears Status Report: Chicago stuffed Baltimore last week at home, 10-6, and is tied with Detroit atop the NFC North.
Lions Status Report: Detroit stuffed Cleveland last week on the road, 13-10, and is tied with Chicago atop the NFC North.
Other Noteworthy Info: Veteran QB Jeff Garcia starts again for Detroit over Harrington. WR Roy Williams remains listed as questionable for the Lions, but an AP report has him returning this week.
Game Summary: A great Smashmouth Showdown for NFC Norris supremacy. Sounds more like a WWF event, but nevertheless it should be fun. I’m going with the visiting Bears here because their defense is slightly better, and their offense makes fewer mistakes. Also, Chicago appears charmed based on the success of the White Sox in the World Series. I mean, karma isn’t just something you find in candy bars. A side note - In the last six meetings, when Detroit wins the game the total stays under. When the Bears prevail, it goes over.
Prediction: BEARS, 20-13
Minnesota (2-4) at Carolina (4-2)
Line: Panthers favored by 8 (total points line is 44½)
Series: The Vikings have won three of five meetings all-time, all but one of those at Minnesota. The last meeting was in 2002.
Vikings Status Report: Minnesota rallied to edge Green Bay at home last week, 23-20, and inch up to third place in the NFC North, a game behind co-leaders Chicago and Detroit.
Panthers Status Report: Carolina was off last week. In Week 6, the Panthers edged Detroit on the road, 21-20. They are tied for second in the NFC South with Atlanta, a game behind Tampa Bay.
Other Noteworthy Info: Last season, the Panthers came off their bye week and endured a 17-point loss to Atlanta.
Game Summary: The Vikings finally win and they’re all the rage again. Horse hockey. Look, they beat a 1-5 team by a field goal at home after falling into a 17-0 hole. Not impressive. Give coach Mike Tice his due for an obviously effective and motivational halftime rant, but the Vikings still aren’t a very good football team. The Panthers are at home and rested.
Prediction: PANTHERS, 35-13
Kansas City (4-2) at San Diego (3-4)
Line: Chargers favored by 6 (total points line is 50)
Series: The Chargers snapped a four-game skid in the series by sweeping KC last season, 34-31 on the road and 24-17 at home.
Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City triumphed at Miami last Friday, 30-20. The Chiefs are second in the AFC West, a half-game behind Denver.
Chargers Status Report: San Diego came from ahead to lose at Philadelphia, 20-17. The Chargers trail Denver by two games.
Other Noteworthy Info: San Diego has held the lead in every one of its games, and possessed it in the fourth quarter in all but one of those games.
Game Summary: Both teams are playing great offense and decent although spotty defense. Both of last year’s meetings were decided by a TD or less, and I have a sneaking suspicion that this one will be, too. Statistically the teams are roughly square, so I lean toward the home team as well as to the team that desperate needs the victory.
Prediction: CHARGERS, 35-30
Philadelphia (4-2) at Denver (5-2)
Line: Broncos favored by 3½ (total points line is 42½)
Series: These teams have met three times since 1992, with the home team winning all three (Denver twice). No recent meetings.
Eagles Status Report: Philadelphia pulled out a victory last Sunday, returning a blocked field goal attempt for a TD in the final minute to beat San Diego, 20-17. The Eagles are in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East along with Washington and the New York Giants.
Broncos Status Report: Denver let a 23-10 fourth-quarter lead slip away last week in a 24-23 loss at the New York Giants. The Broncos lead the AFC West by a half-game over Kansas City.
Other Noteworthy Info: The Eagles are 3-0 against the AFC West this season.
Game Summary: It’s no surprise that the home team has dominated when these teams get together every three or four years, and I see no reason that this time around should be any different. Surprisingly, the Broncos not only are at home but have the statistical edge in virtually all categories considered vital… things like rushing offense and defense, and turnover ratio.
Prediction: BRONCOS, 28-13
Tampa Bay (5-1) at San Francisco (1-5)
Line: Buccaneers favored by 11 (total points line is 36½)
Series: The home team has won six of the last seven meetings, with an average winning margin of more than 18 points. Last year, the Bucs won at home, 35-3.
Bucs Status Report: Tampa Bay was idle last week. In Week 6, the Buccaneers whipped visiting Miami, 27-13, to retain their one-game lead over Atlanta and Carolina in the NFC South.
49ers Status Report: San Francisco traveled cross-country to Washington last week and was thrashed, 52-17. The 49ers have lost five straight and are last in the NFC West.
Other Noteworthy Info: Tampa Bay RB Carnell Williams is listed as questionable with continued multiple leg ailments. QB Brian Griese is out with a knee injury. Chris Simms will start in his place. San Francisco rooked QB Alex Smith is also listed as questionable.
Game Summary: The offense might go through some mid-season growing pains with Simms at the helm, but the defense should continue to carry the bulk of the load. Although weirder things have happened, the 49ers certainly don’t figure to have a serious shot at this one, with or without their rookie QB prodigy.
Prediction: BUCCANEERS, 31-7
Buffalo (3-4) at New England (3-3)
Line: Patriots favored by 8½ (total points line is 44)
Series: The Pats have won the last three meetings by an average of almost 23 points per triumph. The last meeting was a 29-6 New England romp at home last November.
Bills Status Report: Buffalo seized an early lead, but then was trounced at Oakland last week, 38-17. The Bills are a half-game behind the first-place Patriots in the AFC East.
Patriots Status Report: New England was on a bye last week after suffering a 28-20 loss at Denver in Week 6.
Other Noteworthy Info: Patriots RB Corey Dillon is tentatively set to return this week.
Game Summary: The analysis of this one was fascinating to me. In terms of the stats that myself and many pundits feel are important, Buffalo has a clear edge. They’ve run the ball better this season, protected the ball better, and been much stouter against the pass. But the Patriots are the two-time defending champs, coming off a bye week while the Bills are playing their second of consecutive road games – the first of which requiring a cross-country trek. Plus, New England has owned Buffalo in recent years. And lastly, I’m betting that the return of LB Tedy Bruschi – even if he doesn’t actually play in the game – will be inspirational enough on its own to push the Patriots well over the top in this one.
Prediction: PATRIOTS, 31-17
Baltimore (2-4) at Pittsburgh (4-2)
Line: Steelers favored by 9½ (total points line is 33)
Series: The home team has won five straight in this series, including the Steelers’ 20-7 win last year.
Ravens Status Report: Baltimore lost at Chicago last week, 10-6. The Ravens are tied with Cleveland at the bottom of the AFC North.
Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh rolled to an important 27-13 victory at Cincinnati, and now trail the front-running Bengals by just a half-game in the AFC North.
Other Noteworthy Info: Baltimore’s top two defensive stars, LB Ray Lewis and CB Ed Reed, are both expected to be sidelined.
Game Summary: If the Ravens were completely healthy, they’d probably have no real shot in this one because of the immense struggles of their offense. But without Lewis and Reed, it could get real ugly in a hurry.
Prediction: STEELERS, 24-3