Dallas at Philadelphia
This is a big revenge spot for the Eagles. Philadelphia was embarrassed by the Cowboys in Dallas earlier this season, getting beaten 33-10 in Big D. That loss started a bad spell for the Eagles who have lost two of their three games since their unfortunate visit to central Texas.
Conventional Wisdom would say take the Eagles in an obvious revenge game. And you can make a pretty good case for Philadelphia. First, the Eagles are a better home team than a road team. Philadelphia’s defense gives up just 266 total yards at home as opposed to an average of 348 total yards per game in all games. The Eagles offense is also more proficient at home averaging 439 yards per game at The Link as opposed to 348 yards in all games. Second, the Eagles are desperate for a win because (1) Philadelphia is a game behind the Cowboys and falling two games behind with the tie-breaker going to Dallas might well be the fatal blow to their playoff hopes; and (2) the Eagles want to show they can win with T.O. Put these factors together with a MNF setting and you should have a very motivated Philadelphia squad.
But looking closer, you can also make a decent argument or two for Dallas. First, they soundly beat Philadelphia earlier this season. Second, the Eagles struggle mightily against power rushing teams. The Eagles have lost to Dallas, Atlanta, Denver, and Washington- teams that pound the ball between the tackles. The Cowboys average 34 rushing plays on the road for an average of 121 rushing yards, so you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what the Cowboys game plan will be. Third, no T.O. and no rushing game will make McNabb a sitting duck in the pocket.
All the action is coming in on the Eagles moving them to a field goal favorite. Sorry, but I can’t get there with you. Going to have to fade Conventional Wisdom once again and take the visitors.
Kansas City at Buffalo
Another chance to take a road dog against a team that plays well at home. The public has come in strongly behind Buffalo moving the line from a point and a half to a field goal. Once again, Conventional Wisdom is misguided.
This game will come down to rushing the football. The team that has more yardage running the football wins this game. The Bills offense has a slight edge over their counterpart. The Bills average 150 rushing yards per game on 37 attempts for an average of 4.1 yards per carry. KC averages 120 rushing yards, 31 attempts, and a 3.9 average on the road…a slight edge to Buffalo. However the numbers turn around on defense. While the Chiefs are nothing special averaging 117 rushing yards and a 5.1 yard per carry average against, the Bills are horrible, giving up 148 rushing yards and a 5.8 yards per carry average.
These two teams have had two common opponents-the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders. Buffalo beat the Jets 27-17 at home while they lost to the Raiders 17-38 in California. Kansas City has beaten both the Jets (27-7 at Arrowhead) and the Raiders (23-17 on the road and 27-23 last week at home). More to the point, the only teams Buffalo have beaten this year are Houston, Miami, and New York Jets…not a solid offense in the group while the Chiefs have a quality win against the Redskins at home and two road wins against Oakland and Miami on their side of the column.
I’ll take the opportunity to fade the Priest Holmes injury news with this play. The Chiefs win a close game on the road.
Denver at Oakland
Less than field goal is a cheap price to pay in this game. That line value is due to the Broncos 1-2 record on the road (an opening day loss in Miami and loss on the road at NYG). While the Conventional Wisdom about the Broncos is true, they do play better at home than on the road, that doesn’t make the Broncos a bad road team nor does it make the Raiders a good home team.
Throwing out the Dolphins fiasco to start the season, and the Broncos offense has been a juggernaut. The Ponies have not scored less than 20 points in a game since Week 1. Denver has scored 20, 30, 20, 21, 28, 23, and 49 points since their loss in Miami. And just in case you thought Denver put up those numbers against poor opposition, the defenses giving up those points included Jacksonville, Washington, Philadelphia, and New York.
The Raiders don’t have the firepower on offense to score with the Ponies nor can their defense shut the Bronco offense down. The Raiders offense has scored more than 20 points just three times this season and the three teams involved (Titans, Bills, and Chiefs) are among the weakest defensive squads in the league, especially against the run. Denver is not going to let Oakland rush the ball as teams’ average just 88 yards per game on the ground against that Bronco defense. If Oakland cannot get balance on offense, then the pressure will get to Raiders QB Kerry Collins. On the other hand, Denver will have no problems running the ball against the Raiders as the Broncos average 171 rushing yards per game while the Raiders defense gives up 116 yards per game.
As much as I’m trying to find reasons for why the Raiders will win this game, it just doesn’t add up unless the Broncos make mistakes they haven’t made all season. Denver goes on the road and gets the victory over the Raiders this week.
Washington at Tampa Bay
This game opened a pick based on the Redskins road record. Washington hasn’t traveled well this season going just 1-3 on the road. Tampa Bay is 3-1 at home in 2005. If you were to look at nothing else but wins and losses, you can make a pretty good case for taking the Buc’s.
Tampa was the handicappers’ darling last week in a similar situation. The Buc’s were undefeated at home and facing a Panthers team that plays poorly as a favorite and even poorer on the road. The perfect set up for Tampa…and what happened? The Panther came in and blew the Pirates out 34-14.
So, what went wrong? Two words…Chris Sims. Sims might just make a decent quarterback one day, but for right now he’d be more useful serving as the anchor on a pirate ship. In the two games he’s started, Sims has thrown two touchdown passes and four interceptions. If he has another 42 pass attempts this week like he did last week, you can go ahead and throw dirt on the Buc’s because they will be buried in their division after another big loss.
As dreadful as Sims has played, his performance (or lack thereof) has allowed teams to gang up on rookie RB Cadillac Williams. After averaging 142 rushing yards in their first six games, Tampa has averaged just 44 yards per game with Sims behind center. No rushing-no scoring. Tampa Bay has scored just 24 total points in their two games with Sims at the helm.
The usual suspects will be back on Tampa Bay’s bandwagon this week. Sorry, but I’m not going there either. Washington’s defense leads the Redskins to victory in a low-scoring game.