Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
I don’t like many games this week, but this is one of those duh games I can’t resist. This game opened up Pitt -2.5 and all the money has flowed in on the short chalk. You knew the public would back the popular Steelers, but with the line opening under a field goal the wise guys jumped on Pittsburgh with two feet, and those that didn’t jump in early are sitting this one out. Without sharp money to bail them out, the books are going to need the Bengals in a big way.
And why not back the Steelers? The numbers are all in their favor. Pitt averages 26.7 ppg. on offense and gives up just 13 points per game for an average winning margin of 13.7 points. You can credit the Steelers running game and run defense for that winning margin. Pittsburgh averages 159 yards on the ground and gives up only 76 rushing yards.
Cincinnati’s numbers are not nearly as good. The Bengals score 27.3 points per game and give up a whopping 31.2 ppg. for a net margin of -3.9 points per game. Blame the running defense as Cincinnati is being out-rushed 98 to136 yards per game.
It’s very easy to see how this game is going to play out. The Steelers want to run the ball down the throats of that Bengal defense. I’m not sure Cincinnati can do anything to stop them, given their injuries at linebacker. If the Bengals are going to compete, they will have to throw the ball and keep scoring. CIN will score some points, but not enough. Pittsburgh wins 31-24.
Cleveland at St. Louis
Why would anyone back the 0-7 Rams? I am, but I can’t really explain why they have my support. Whether you call it a hunch, mojo, voodoo, desperation, or just plain nuts, I think this is the week the Rams get the monkey off their backs and get that long awaited victory.
St. Louis is terrible. A Rams offense everyone thought would rip through NFL defenses has averaged just 11 points per game, that’s 32nd (last) in the NFL by a big margin. STL averages just 275 total yards per game which is good for 30th in the NFL. Whoo-hoo! The Greatest Show on Turf is back! Ok, I’ll concede that missing their entire offensive line, starting quarterback, and All-Pro runiningback may have something to do with that offensive futility, but at some point this team has to sack-up and compete. How desperate is this team? There would be naked partying in the stands if the Rams got three touchdowns in a victory. I won’t put all the blame on St. Louis’ offense because, in all honesty, the Rams defense stinks. St. Louis’ pass defense numbers look decent only because opposing teams are too busy running all over their front seven to throw the football. The Rams are giving up a hefty 130 rushing yards per game. You’re not going stay in many games if you can’t score and you can’t get your defense off the field.
If that St. Louis offense is ever going to produce, it has to be this week against a bad Cleveland defense. The visiting Browns are dead last in defense allowing 413 total yards per game.
The situation also favors the Rams. The Browns haven’t been road favorites often and I wouldn’t be surprised if they struggled in that role once again. Perhaps the Browns get caught looking ahead.
Yes, the Rams are completely unworthy of anyone’s support. I can’t find one mathematical reason why the Rams will win this game, so it’s time to bring forth the collective supernatural power of football voodoo. Go ahead and rub crystals on your body, wear foil on your head, pass around your college water bong one last time, just do whatever you need to do to bring a single, undeserving victory to this poor, downtrodden team. Rams win 24-21.
Philadelphia at Minnesota
This could be a really ugly game. And if this is an ugly game, I’d want to back the ugliest team in football, the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikes play really unattractive football. Minnesota can’t throw the football a lick. Minnesota is averaging just 151 passing yards per game, and most of those yards are picked up by RB Peterson. You’d be hard pressed to name Minnesota’s tight end and the Vikings starting receivers have been MIA all season. With QB Kelly Holcomb likely to start this game for the Purple People Eaters, those passing numbers aren’t going to get any better this week. Let’s face it- Adrian Peterson is the Vikings offense.
That may not be a bad thing this week. The Eagles haven’t really faced a team that pounds the football all season. Their NFC North opposition, the Lions and Packers, have no rushing game to speak of, and the Cowboys ran all over them. Against lack-luster opposition, Philly is giving up over 100 yards on the ground. Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if the Eagles struggled to contain the Viking ground game.
The Eagles haven’t been offensive juggernauts themselves. Aside from their 56 point explosion against Detroit, Philly has yet to score more than 16 points in a game. Philly would love to match RB Westbrook up on Minnesota’s secondary. However, Vikings HC Childress was a long time assistant for Eagles HC Andy Reid so he should be very familiar with Philly’s schemes and personnel. If anyone can contain Eagles RB Westbrook, you’d have to think it would be the former coach who coached against him every day in practice.
This could be a slugging match. The Vikings will want to run the ball and the Eagles will want to test the Vikings perimeter defense. ‘Like the Steelers game, I take the team that runs the ball better and plays the run better. Vikings win 20-17.
Upsets of the Week
Minnesota and St. Louis.