Cincinnati at Kansas City
Normally, defense trumps offense in the NFL. But these are the Bengals, and they are so often the exception to the rule.
Cincinnati is off to their customary undisciplined start. At 1-3 and playing in arguably the most competitive division in football, the Bengals cannot afford another slip-up. Cincy will be 1-4 this week if they can’t get their heads together against a very opportunistic KC team playing in the NFL’s most feared venue. Unfortunately for their long suffering fans, those boneheaded moments are far too frequent and I wouldn’t be the least surprised if the Bengals collectively had another mental meltdown this week.
Cincinnati has had a week off to fix their problems. The most obvious issue is a defense that was embarrassed at Cleveland and New England and the second problem being turnovers (11). The Bengals are last in the NFL in scoring defense (32.2 ppg. against) and are one of only three teams giving up over 400 total yards per game. Cincinnati gives up a whopping 152 rushing yards per game. You hope for improvement after a bye week, but these are the Bengals and nothing is certain.
Cluster injuries at the linebacker position haven’t helped those numbers, but the bye week should give Cincinnati the opportunity to get a little healthier. With the Chiefs likely to run RB Larry Johnson down the throats of that Bengals defense, having a solid front seven will be even more important this week. Larry Johnson should have no problems getting his 100 plus rushing yards this week no matter who plays linebacker for the Bengals. If it’s just 100 yards, the Bengals have a shot to win this game. If they give up 200 rushing yards, the Chiefs are going to blow them out.
Chiefs HC Edwards seems to enjoy Stone Age football. Given the opportunity, he’d happily hand the ball off 40 times every game. Not that the Chiefs would want to throw the football this week, but the play-action should be there all day as the Bengals will have to stack the box and leave their cornerbacks to fend for themselves. Pick your poison Cincinnati, the slow death by ground or the quick death by air.
A shoot-out looks likely as the Bengals offense will have to either play keep away from the Chiefs running game or score touchdowns just to keep pace. Bengals are the more motivated team this week. A field goal separates these teams, 28-24 with the Over getting the cash.
New England at Dallas
The advanced Super Bowl line is AFC -8. Given that both of these teams are 5-0 and are a combined 9-1 ATS you have to assume this is a likely Super Bowl preview making the Patriots more than a touchdown favorite on a neutral field. That makes sense to me given what we have seen from these two teams.
The Patriots have mowed down their first five opponents. They are averaging an NFL best 36.4 points per game on offense and a miserly 13.0 points against. The potent combination of Brady to Moss has put smiles on fantasy players and Patriots fans alike. Given how many yards and points the Pat’s passing game is generating, their running game seems like an afterthought. Although not generating touchdowns for fantasy owners, the running game is averaging 155 yards per match even without a dominate runningback.
Last week, Dallas got caught looking ahead to this game. It took a miracle finish to get out of Buffalo with a victory. You may never see a team overcome five turnovers, two defensive scores against, and a special teams touchdown against again, so enjoy it. Even with a poor effort against the lowly Bills, the Cowboys offense is averaging 35.2 points per game.
QB Tony Romo gets the credit for the season stats and the blame for last week’s debacle. Romo isn’t consistent. When he’s good this team is very, very good and when he struggles they’re awful. He’s a little short and he throws the ball a little too sidearm. If you can put a defender in Romo’s face, his completion percentage goes way down.
No doubt the Patriots have noticed as well. This may become a game of big plays as both teams try to disrupt the opposing passing game by blitzing. If I have to choose, give me QB Tom Brady to make more right decisions under pressure. New England wins 34-24.
Tennessee at Tampa Bay
This is one of those head-scratching games. Why would the Tampa Bay Buc’s be favored by a field goal at home against the Titans? Looking at the stats, there’s very little to choose from, and if you had to choose you’d rather have Tennessee’s numbers. The Titans have a slight edge on both sides of the football. The Titans offense has the edge in points scored (21.0 to 19.0), rushing yards (153 to 113) and total yards (299 to 296). Tennessee’s defense also looks to have a slight edge statistically. The Titans give up fewer points (14.8 to 15.4), rushing yards (72 to 124), and total yards (276-313). The only category the Buc’s have an edge is in turnover margin.
QB Vince Young is a rare athlete, but not exactly a Rhodes Scholar. Given that you never know what will happen when the ball leaves his hand, you give a little sigh of relief every down he pulls the football down and runs. Young had a terrible game against the Falcons last week, turning the football over in every way possible. But Young (with a lot of help from the Titans dominate defense) overcame his poor play to lead his team to another win and cover. Say what you want, but Vince Young is a winner.
If Tennessee is a dog this week, it has to be because the boys down on the strip expect another mistake filled game out of the Tennessee signal caller. Young is capable of a bad game, and certainly the Buc’s have the kind of ball-hawking defense that will make a quarterback look bad, but in the end, Vince Young just knows how to win games. Give me Tennessee to upset the Buc’s on the road 24-17.
Minnesota at Chicago
The Bears are in a bad spot. They flat-out stole a game in Green Bay last week after looking like they’d get run out of the stadium through the first 30 minutes. Five turnovers including two bad turnovers in the second half by the Pack deep in there own territory led to a Bears road victory despite being completely outplayed on the stat sheet.
Where does Chicago go from here? Can they build around that victory and have confidence in their quarterback or do they come out and struggle once again? My guess is that both teams will struggle this week.
These teams are very similar, especially at quarterback. Passing yards are close with just six yards per game between them (177-171). Having 170 passing yards per game is a bad thing, by the way. If it was just the passing yards, you could live with it. But the turnovers are the killers. Even with one of the most opportunistic defenses, the Bears are -3 in turnovers. QB Jackson, the likely Viking starter, has one touchdown this year and five interceptions. Is punting on first down an option?
If winning football games comes down to running the football and playing defense, then you have to like the Vikings’ chances. Minnesota has a substantial edge in rushing yards (135-83) and rush defense (62-99). No one has run the football against this Vikings defense the last two years and the Bears won’t either. The first team to throw 25 times in this game loses. Minnesota gets the upset 17-14.
Washington at Green Bay
This is one of those games where neither team matches up well with the other. It’s strength against strength and weakness against weakness.
Green Bay can’t run the football. They don’t even try, averaging just 68 rushing yards per game. We’ll they tried a little in the first quarter last week when the Bears took the field in a dime defense. Talk about showing no respect for your opponents running game. RB Wynn looked like a fantasy god ripping through the Chicago secondary on the Pack’s first two drives. However, it didn’t last. After two turnovers the Packers running game once again went dormant and Green Bay went back to passing every down.
They won’t get away with that this week. The strength of the Redskins defense is their secondary. The Redskins give up just 185 passing yards per game. Washington is also stingy against the run.
The Packers defense has gotten lots of respect the last few weeks. Often a liability, Green Bay’s defenders are better than previous squads, but perhaps not as good as the media would have you believe. Their numbers have actually been pretty decent. Green Bay is giving up over 100 rushing yards per game (13th) and 18.6 points (12th in NFL). Good, but not great. You don’t hear anything about the Redskins defense, but they are third in scoring and eighth in total yards against.
Right now, the Redskins are the better team and yet they are getting a field goal on the road. I’ll take the points. Redskins get the upset 20-17.
Upsets of the Week
Tennessee, Minnesota, Washington.