Detroit at Arizona
I don’t like many games this week, but this one is my favorite. It’s been a very long time since the Lions were road favorites. The market reacted immediately when the Sports Gods put the Lions up as one-point favorites. Money poured in on the Cardinals...not exactly a vote of confidence. Detroit is now a one point road dog.
Why do the wise guys like the Cardinals? First, the Lions have not been a good road team. Detroit lost last year’s match-up 17-10 in Arizona. The Cardinals had lost eight straight games going into that game. The Lions haven’t won in Arizona since 1993. Second, the Lions secondary will be pushed to their limits to cover Arizona’s wide receivers. Detroit is rotating four cornerbacks because none of them have stepped up and claimed their starting spot (30th against the pass). Third, the Cardinals can pressure the passer and Detroit gives up a lot of sacks. The right side of the Lions’ offensive line (RT Scott and RG Peterman) is out of this game. Finally, Detroit is just too overconfident and could be ripe for an upset. The big win over Denver and the poor Cardinals outing against Tampa Bay last week (their third loss in a row) may play on their minds.
I can’t fight the line move. Arizona wins a high-scoring game 27-24.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh
Hey, it’s the Browns. Their defense can’t stop anyone so they have to score, score, and score some more just to keep pace. With Pittsburgh coming off a dominate Monday Night win this sets up for a great opportunity for the visitors.
The Steelers have been monsters at home. The Ravens were the latest victims, getting creamed in a game that was over at halftime. Pittsburgh’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger scored five touchdowns in the first 30 minutes of that game. QB Ben Roethlisberger is second in the league in touchdowns and passing yards and the Browns secondary should provide little resistance this week. Roethlisberger threw four touchdowns in the season opener, a 34-7 Pittsburgh victory in Cleveland.
The Browns are the fourth best offense in the NFL (365.4 yards and 31.4 points per game). Cleveland is 12 points shy of reaching their total points scored for the 2006 season. The Browns are scoring because their offensive line has played so well. The big guys have given up just seven sacks in their last seven games. If the Steelers blitz and don’t get to QB Anderson, the Browns receivers will have man to man down the field which usually leads to big plays and scoring.
Cleveland has enough motivation. As if the opening day loss wasn’t enough, the Browns will be playing for a share of the division lead this week. A loss would mean that the Steelers have the playoff tiebreaker and have a two game lead in the division. This would almost certainly mean the Browns would have to make the post season as a wildcard team, a tough proposition in the AFC. Cleveland has lost 14 of the last 15 games to the Steelers. Yep, they’ll be up for this game.
This should be a wild one. I’m not playing against PIT at home and I don’t want to lay 10 points either. Give me the over in this game. PIT wins 31-27.
Atlanta at Carolina
This is the bad, bad football game of the week. QB David Carr (concussion) or QB Vinny Testaverde (old age + bad body) or QB Matt Moore (unheralded rookie) vs. QB Joey Harrington (just freaking ugly) in one of the least memorable match-ups of the season. With that kind of talent on the field, this game could feature lots of running and defense.
As bad as the NFC and the NFC South has been, this game unfortunately means something. Carolina is 4-4, tied with the resurgent Saints, one game behind Tampa Bay. That makes this a big divisional game. Given what the team has seen from David Carr (lots of ugly sacks and interceptions) if he starts, the coaching staff isn’t going to let him blow this game. Carolina is going to grind it out on the ground and limit their mistakes. The Panthers have a history of running the football against the Falcons defense and this week should be no exception.
The Falcons aren’t exactly dynamic on offense. They’d also like to keep this game close because they can’t score with anybody. Atlanta has scored just 115 points all season, or just over two touchdowns per game. QB Joey Harrington has more interceptions than touchdowns (four) half way through the season and I’m confident that the Falcons game plan will have Harrington on a tight leash.
The best fantasy play may be the field goal kickers. Carolina wins 19-16.
Buffalo at Miami
Ugly. Winless teams off a bye week have been great propositions over the years, but the public wants no part of the winless Dolphins.
Why isn’t Miami getting any love? Well, their defense can’t stop the run (31st) and Bills RB Marshawn Lynch (153 yards last week) isn’t exactly the worst ball carrier in the NFL. The Dolphins have started seven different safeties this season. LB Zach Thomas is likely out for the game, if not the season. The team’s run-stopper, NT Keith Traylor, is 38 years old. The team is signing cornerbacks off the street just to practice. There are lots of reasons to think that Miami will go 0-16 this year.
The Bills have bounced back from a 0-3 start to the season. The Bills are 4-4 at the half way point in the season and may be a bit too confident coming into this game. Miami is 8-4 at home in their last 12 games against the Bills and with an extra week to prepare, they could surprise this week.
I think Buffalo plays this game conservatively, running the ball at the weak Miami defense, controlling the clock, and avoiding turnovers. That conservative approach may get them into trouble. Buffalo wins a low-scoring game 17-14.
Upsets of the Week
Philadelphia and Cincinnati.