Tennessee at Cleveland
This is more of a move against Cleveland than a move on the Titans. The Browns have just lost back-to-back games against the Detroit Lions and the Houston Texans. While Conventional Wisdom might expect a bounce after two bad losses, I hesitate to be the first one to jump on the Browns bandwagon.
After watching the Lions and the Texans games several things are clear to me. First, the Browns defense doesn’t have the weapons to play a 3-4 defense. Cleveland’s defensive line can’t get to the quarterback without blitzing and the Browns won’t call the blitz because they are vulnerable in the secondary. The second strike against the Browns is their lack of a passing game. While QB Dilfer is taking the heat for not being able to score touchdowns, the blame should be on the Browns receivers. Say what you want about Dilfer not being a top-shelf QB, but it isn’t his job to catch the ball. Cleveland’s receivers have a serious case of the drops this season.
Tennessee is all beaten up, but they play hard every week and no matter who’s out there, the Titans have moved the football. Cleveland is laying back and playing conservatively on defense. As long as they continue to follow that course, patient teams will move the ball and score points. Unfortunately, the Browns don’t have enough offense to win games 24-21. I’m taking the Titans this week.
Oakland at Kansas City
Good revenge spot for Oakland. The Raiders have played well the past few weeks after discovering they had a running game after all while the Chiefs have reverted to 2004 form on defense.
Let’s start with the Chiefs. Last week the San Diego Chargers once again exposed the KC defense. Even as the Chiefs held RB Tomlinson in check, the Chargers passing game gashed the feeble Kansas City defense for over 300 yards. The KC defenders have given up over 330 passing yards in four of seven games this season.
That defense should be vulnerable once again to an Oakland Raiders squad who have shown significant improvement on offense. RB Lamont Jordan was a fantasy stud last week as the Black and Silver pounded Jordan at the Tennessee Titans defense. WR Randy Moss has 127 receiving yards and a touchdown in the first game with KC this season. Moss, if he can overcome some nagging injuries, should have another good stat game against the porous Kansas City secondary.
I really like all the Raiders skill position players this week. Oakland has an excellent chance of getting the road upset in a high-scoring game.
Cincinnati at Baltimore
Baltimore comes off a huge emotional effort on the road at Pittsburgh on Monday night. Not much was expected from the Ravens in that game as the number in Las Vegas climbed all week. But the Ravens were not the disaster on offense the public was expecting and played well enough to give the Black and Gold’s faithful more than a little heartburn in the 4 th quarter of that contest before coming up a bit short.
Will they get up that high again this week for another emotional divisional game? Probably not. I expect the Ravens to crash to earth this week against the Bengals. Baltimore is still beaten up on defense and asking the Black Birds “D” to shut down the high-powered Bengals offense off a short week of rest is probably asking a bit too much. Cincinnati has one of the great ball-hawking secondaries in the league this year (+20 turnover margin) and Ravens QB Anthony Wright seems prone to making mistakes. If QB Carson Palmer gets a short field, Cincinnati is going to score points.
The Ravens have lost 13 games straight as an underdog and Cincinnati is favored by a field goal on the road. That seems like a short price to pay to me.
Seattle at Arizona
I can make a pretty good case for this being a high-scoring game. Seattle is one of the best rushing teams in the league averaging over 150 yards per game and a 5.2 yards per carry average against a Cardinals’ squad that is second worst team in rushing the ball. The Seahawks dominated the earlier contest this year with RB Alexander scoring four touchdowns in Washington. Because Arizona can’t run the ball, HC Denny Green has made another change at QB with Kurt Warner getting the call this week in hopes that he can jump-start the Red Bird’s offense.
I can easily see Seattle jumping ahead early in this contest and Arizona having to throw every down to keep the game close. Warner is a noted fumbler/interception thrower and if he drops back 40 times both teams are going to score much the way the Packers play high-scoring games when QB Bret Favre goes into gun-slinger mode. The should be a fun game to watch with lots of big plays for both teams. If Seattle goes into this game rusty off their off week or overconfident, the Cardinals may pull the upset.
N.Y. Giants at San Francisco
This looks like a big flat spot for the New York Football Giants this week. Off the emotional shutout victory last Sunday against their NFC East rivals Washington Redskins and having to travel all the way across the country, you can’t expect the Giants to come out with their “A” game in this contest. We saw last week what happens when teams take the lowly 49ers lightly as the Tampa Bay Buc’s were upset. Will San Francisco make it two in a row? Not likely, but this game isn’t likely to be a fantasy feast for Giants players either.
The Conventional Wisdom is that New York will kill San Francisco, and you can make a pretty good argument for the game playing out that way. The 49ers have already said they will be starting Cody Pickett at quarterback. Pickett, by the way, was playing on special teams two weeks ago. But injuries to the other 49ers quarterbacks and the trade of former starting QB Rattay to Tampa Bay has led to Pickett being named the starter this week. No one would argue if you said that San Fran is going to struggle moving the ball and scoring, and if you believe that probably the Giants are feeling that way as well.
I can easily see the Giants coming into this game emotionally spent and putting the game on cruise control from start to finish. They will move the football, but the Giants may struggle to put together six and seven first down touchdown scoring drives. I would not be at all surprised if this game is lower than expected with New York making enough mistakes and settling for field goals to keep San Francisco in this contest to the end.