New Orleans at New England
New England has been a contrarian teams for a number of years. When the Patriots are good, people can find all kinds of reasons for not supporting them (they have no superstars, they’re too injured, etc.), and when they’re not so great, the public finds reasons to back them (Tom Brady, they’ve overcome injuries before, etc). The truth is that this is a very average team this year, and yet the Conventional Wisdom still finds reasons for why NE will stomp bad teams like the Saints.
But will they? Statistically, both defenses are very similar. The Saints give up an average of 26.9 points per game while the Patriots give up 26.1 ppg. If you just look at yardage, the New Orleans defense is slightly ahead. The Saints give up 139 on the ground and 168 yards per game through the air. The Patriots give up 123 rushing yards per game and 257 passing yards per game.
Likewise both offenses are similar, although the Patriots have a slight edge in yardage. New England rushes for just 79 yards per game and passes for 276 yards while the Saints rush for 122 yards per game and pass for 196 yards per game. If it weren’t for New Orleans propensity for self-destructing (turnovers), you could make the case that these are two pretty evenly matched teams despite their win-loss records.
This has the feel of a high-scoring game. If they Saints are going to get up, a game against the defending Super Bowl Champs should bring out their best. If New Orleans can avoid the turnovers, the Saints have real shot at winning this game.
Arizona at St. Louis
This is another game where you have two teams that are statistically similar and yet the Conventional Wisdom is that this will be a blow-out.
Which team has the better defense? Surprisingly, it’s the Cardinals! Arizona gives up an average of 26.7 points per game, which is among the worst averages in the NFL, but the Rams give up 29.1 yards per game, dead last is scoring defense. St. Louis gives up more rushing yards (132 to 126) and more passing yards (241 to 243). Throw out the labels and the logos, and you’d think it was the Rams that are 2-7 not the Cardinals.
While yardage numbers are similar for both teams as are net turnovers, the Cardinals inability to score touchdowns is the difference in these two squads. If Arizona were scoring touchdowns instead of kicking field goals, this would be a toss-up contest on a neutral field.
While Conventional Wisdom says Arizona will continue to struggle in the red zone, Unconventional Wisdom says the Rams defense hasn’t shown they can stop any team from scoring.
This should be another high-scoring game that comes down to the last drive. The Rams may win, but the Cardinals will be more competitive than many think.
Indianapolis at Cincinnati
The public is coming in strongly behind the Colts. While many may see favoring Indy by less than a touchdown to be a real bargain, Unconventional Wisdom says the home team is the play.
The Bengals are yet to defeat a team with a winning record, aside from the offensively challenged Bears. And yet it’s the Colts that have played the weakest schedule in the league as their opponents are a combined 26-55. The Bengals at 7-2 are by far the toughest test Indy has faced all season.
If you were going to pick one team in the league that can score with the Colts, you’d pick the Bengals. IND’s offense averages 372 total yards per game and the CIN offense averages 360 for just a 12 average net yard defense. You want scoring? The Colts average 28.9 ppg. and the Bengals 23.3 ppg. but remember, there’s a difference between scoring on the Texans defense and scoring the Bears, Ravens, and Steelers defense.
The Bengals fans will be pumped for this game giving the home squad all the incentive it needs. In the end, this is a field goal game where both offense march up and down the field.
Detroit at Dallas
Conventional Wisdom says this should be a huge flat spot for the Cowboys. Off a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the hated Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas has a short week to prepare and get up for the lowly Lions. Are the Pokes going to get up for the Motor City Kitties? Probably not, but then it is exceedingly unlikely that Detroit will bring their “A” game two weeks in a row either.
Dallas is one of those teams that have a true home-road dichotomy. Big D can look like Super Bowl contenders at home one week and look pathetic on the road the next Sunday. You saw it once again against Philadelphia-DAL blows the Eagles out at home and then need a gift at the Link to beat a TO-less Eagles team a few weeks later. Go figure.
Detroit actually looked good on offense last week. Harrington played one of his best games as a pro and the Lions took out the Cardinals at Ford Field. My guess is that Harrington’s run of good form lasted until Arizona’s defense got off the field and now he reverts back to his more comfortable form-the bungling QB who makes us cringe when he delivers the football.
I don’t see either offense doing much in this game. An emotionally drained Cowboys squad is still better than the Lions in Texas, but don’t expect a lot of scoring. The Lions make enough mistakes to kill drives and the listless Cowboys lack the juice to blow Detroit out. Wake me when it’s over.
Carolina at Chicago
If you like defense, this is your game. If you like watching huge sweaty men wrestle each other to advance a pig’s bladder, this is your contest. If you’re a guy that eats what you kill, this is must see TV. If you want pretty, pack your tutu and slippers and hit the ballet ‘because this is going to be one ugly, hard-hitting game. Prepare yourself for 60 minutes of the finest rugby the NFL can present.
Chicago’s defense is #1 in the fewest yards and points allowed. Chicago isn’t bad against the pass either, at a disappointing 3 rd in the NFL. If Carolina thinks they can drive the ball on this group, the Panthers are in for a rude reception. Averaging just 310 total net yards per game, it’s difficult to imagine the Panthers putting together 70 yard drives for touchdowns against a defense that surrenders just 158 net yards per game. Carolina is going to have to take advantage of turnovers or get a big play from the passing game to get more than a single touchdown on Sunday. Then again, a single major score might well win this game.
While the Bears excel on defense, the Chicago offense has set professional football back 30 years. If the Bears broke out the single wing formation in this game, it would be a novelty, but not a shock. For those that follow sports trivia, here’s a nugget for you: Chicago has a shot at averaging more rushing yards per game than passing yards this season. The Bears average 132 yards on the ground and just 129 yards per game in the air. You would have to go back a long, long time to find the last winning team that rushed from more yards than they passed for. Unfortunately for Chicago, the Panthers are very adept at stopping the run as Carolina gives up just 92 rushing yards per game.
If neither team can run the ball, do they go to the air? Nope. Both teams are too good a pressuring the QB and creating turnovers to have the opposing QB drop back and pass 30 times per game. I’m not sure what the NFL record for punts in a game is, but these two teams have a shot at breaking it here if the weather’s foul in the aptly named Windy City. Unconventional Wisdom says:first team to 10 wins this game.