Tampa Bay at Detroit
This game matches two teams that cannot run the football, which should logically lead to a high-scoring game.
Tampa Bay is scraping together a backfield this week. They picked up RB Michael Bennett before the trade deadline, but Bennett is unlikely to have an impact at this stage in his career. With RB Cadillac Williams, RB Michael Pittman, and LT Luke Pettygrut down with injuries, the Buc’s ball-carriers have rushed for a combined 39 rushing yards the last two weeks. Without a semblance of balance on offense, Tampa Bay struggled to move the football and score against the Colts and Titans. Fortunately for the TB, the Lions defense isn’t close to being on par with their two previous opponents. The Lions have a banged-up secondary and the replacements they’ve hired this week will likely not be ready for this game.
Detroit’s coaching staff has intimate knowledge of the TB personnel. HC Rod Marinelli was the Buc’s defensive coordinator/defensive line coach (10 seasons) under Tampa Bay HC John Gruden and his son-in-law Lions defensive coordinator Joe Berry was the TB linebackers coach for five years. Given that Detroit has had two weeks to prepare for this game, they should have had enough time to come up with a good offensive game plan. Even if the Lions can’t run the ball (98 rushing attempts and 191 passing attempts) they have a big edge in the passing game, especially with that knowledge of the Buc’s defensive schemes and personnel.
Detroit has won both of their home games this season and with all the advantages they hold over the Buc’s they should get another win this week. Detroit outscores Tampa Bay 34-20.
Kansas City at Oakland
One of the longest and strangest NFL streaks is on the line this week. Oakland has found a way to lose 16 straight divisional games. Most of the Raiders players have never won an AFC West game. The last Raiders divisional win came at Denver on November 28, 2004. Oakland is minus 12 in turnovers and has committed 120 penalties in those defeats. The Silver and Black has just six rushing touchdowns during the streak. The Chargers, Broncos, and Chiefs have 25. The Chiefs have beaten the Raiders eight straight games and KC RB Larry Johnson has gone over 100 rushing yards in each of the last four games. It seems likely those streaks will continue.
The Raiders don’t match-up well with the Chiefs. Everyone knows what the Chiefs want to run the ball and we all know that the way to hurt KC is to throw the deep ball. The Raiders don’t stop the run (they gave up 198 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries to Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson last week) and they don’t throw the ball down the field. Even the Raiders running game has struggled recently. Oakland managed just 53 yards on 23 carries in SD.
I’m a little surprised on how much money the Raiders are taking early this week, given the streak. Oakland QB Culpepper is still getting settled in as a starting quarterback. Two week’s ago he looked great and last week the Raiders quarterback looked completely lost playing from behind. Culpepper has always been inconsistent, but this is really going from one extreme to another. Kansas City has a decent pass defense (194 yards per game) so it wouldn’t surprise me if Culpepper struggled once again. The coaching staff would like to run the ball and limit Culpepper to 20-25 passing attempts, but if the Raiders defense can’t get off the field, Culpepper may be forced to carry the team.
I like the Chiefs to keep the streak alive. KC wins 23-17.
Arizona at Washington
Injuries are the story in this game and the next. Let’s start with the Redskins. Their offensive line is a mess. Going into last week’s Packers game, Washington had two offensive linemen out (T Jon Jansen-is on IR and RG Randy Thomas has a torn triceps and will miss 10-12 weeks). Last week, reserve T Stephon Heyer went down, C Casey Rabach (groin) got dinged, and Todd Wade (groin) and Pete Kendall (hamstring, knee) went off during the course of the game. As of Thursday, there is no information that confirms that any of these linemen will be available. None of them has practiced. If they can’t go, the Redskins will be without five starting offensive linemen and a former defensive tackle (Lorenzo Alexander) will be starting at guard. We won’t know for sure how many of these linemen can play until the injury report comes out on Friday, but it’s very hard to lay more than a touchdown with a team that may be missing five starting offensive linemen.
The Cardinals have their own injury problems. Arizona had to go to third string QB Tim Rattay. Rattay was not impressive last week, going 12-24 for 159 yards, no touchdowns, and three interceptions. T Levi Brown may not be available. On defense, Pro Bowl S Adrian Wilson and LB Carlos Anthony left last week’s game. I’m not interested in backing a team with a third-string signal-caller if the defense is banged up.
The only way to look at this game is the Under. It’s difficult to imagine how either team can practice, let alone get their timing down in only four practice days with so many missing pieces and players playing out of position. Both offenses may sputter in this game. Washington wins 20-13.
Baltimore at Buffalo
This game is very similar to the Arizona Washington game. On one hand your have a beaten up team (Ravens) and on the other hand you have a team playing their back-up quarterback (Buffalo).
Let’s start with the Ravens. This team is 4-2 straight-up but have only one ATS cover this season. That cover came last week, and it took the opposing quarterback throwing five interceptions and K Matt Stover kicking five field goals to get Baltimore the win and cover. With that record, I just don’t trust them to win and cover on the road. The Ravens don’t score touchdowns. They dink and dunk down the field. Not a single receiver has stepped up and TE Todd Heap, who hasn’t been healthy, will miss this game with an injury. The Ravens offensive line is as banged up as any with C Mike Flynn, LT Jonathan Ogden, and T Adam Terry all hurt.
The situation favors Buffalo. This team is coming off a bye, giving them an extra week to prepare. The Bills are a good home team, even this season. A one point loss to Denver, a one point loss to Dallas, and a three point win over the Jets. There’s no reason to think this team will not be competitive this week.
I just don’t trust the Ravens as road favorites in a very tough venue. Give me Buffalo to pull the small upset in a low-scoring game. Bills win 17-12.
Upsets of the Week
Buffalo and Kansas City