Arizona at Cincinnati
Both teams had good defensive games last week…and that streak should end at one game because injuries are killing both defenses. The Cardinals had an outstanding game against the Lions last week, holding the visitors to minus 18 yards rushing. Unfortunately, the Red Birds lost two key defensive players in that victory. LB/DE Bertrand Berry (torn triceps) was placed on IR for the season and S Adrian Wilson has a calf/Achilles tendon injury and is doubtful to play. The Bengals, the 31st ranked defense, held the Ravens to a touchdown last Sunday, but placed yet another linebacker on IR, the fourth this season. The team signed a free agent off the street to replace him for this game.
With all the weapons both teams have on offense, this isn’t a good week to be short-handed on defense. Setting aside the Patriots and Colts for a minute, you’d have a hard time finding two teams with better one, two, and three receivers. Neither team has much of a secondary, and if their defensive lines can’t get pressure on the opposing passer, you’re going to see receivers running wild in the secondary.
If I trusted Cincinnati one bit, I’d be on the Bengals this week. It’s a good spot after not playing well on the road last week and still getting the win in Baltimore while the Cardinals creamed the Lions on their home field. But their lowly defense is enough to keep me off this team. I think the smarter play is over the total, as neither defense is likely to keep the opposing offense in check. Arizona wins 31-28.
N.Y. Giants at Detroit
This is a bad spot for the G-men. They gave it their all against the hated Cowboys last week and still came up short 31-20. Will they have a hangover this week? Only time will tell. Not only did they lose the game, but everyone is asking if this is the start of yet another second half of the season fade by the Giants?
The Giants have troubling issues on and off the field. Not only did they get beaten by Dallas but now the finger pointing is starting. QB Manning did not play well in the loss. He struggled because his number one wide receiver wasn’t even on the field after halftime. WR Plaxico Burress (severely sprained ankle) has not practiced all season. He was a non-factor against the Cowboys (24 first half receive yards) and may be at the point were he must take time off. If that happens, New York’s starting receivers are the ageless WR Amani Toomer and who? WR Sinorice Moss (59 receiving yards this season) is a complete bust and WR Steve Smith, who has been injured all season, is doubtful for this game. Maybe Toomer and special teams player David Tyree playing in the slot. With that lineup at wide receiver, this team isn’t going to outscore the Lions who have won all four games on their home field this season.
The Lions are tied with the Giants for the NFC Wild Card race. This game, and the next two against the division leading Packers, may determine Detroit’s season. The Lions coaching staff are publicly calling this a playoff game. That’s a good indication Detroit is ready for this game.
Expect lots of big plays. Detroit set a modern era record last week for rushing futility and will likely go to the passing game this week. New York leads the league in sacks and Detroit is dead last in protecting their passer. Sacks, bombs, and interceptions will be on the menu this Sunday as both teams look to make big plays.
The spot favors the Lions. They’ve been solid at home and the Giants may be hung over after Dallas week. Give me Detroit in an upset 23-17.
Oakland at Minnesota
You probably couldn’t find a worse NFL quarterback match-up if you tried…unless, of course, you count the Bears-Raiders game last week. QB Daunte Culpepper is back in as the starting signal-caller for Oakland after QB Josh McCown (right quad) did nothing but throw interceptions to Chicago last week. McCown is done as a starter after throwing nine picks in five games this season. Minnesota’s quarterback situation isn’t anything to be proud or either. The team will be starting their third quarterback (Brooks Bollinger) of the season and still haven’t found a leader they have confidence in.
The Raiders quarterback play is mirroring the team’s play. Yes, Oakland sucks once again. Their back to the old ways: penalties, turnovers, and mistakes. Then the Raiders lose, the team goes straight down the drain. They’ve lost five straight games and scored 11 points per game during that streak. Last week, the Silver and Black didn’t have an offensive drive longer than 45 yards. I think Culpepper give the team a better chance to win and I like him playing against the team that cut him, but that isn’t much to hang my hat on.
The Vikings have lost their best offensive player in RB Peterson in an embarrassing 34-0 shutout at Green Bay. This was the worst shutout loss in team history and the worst-ever loss to the Packers. With question marks at quarterback and runningback, do you really want to lay nearly a touchdown with this team against anyone?
This should be an ugly, ugly game. Minnesota wins the game, but Oakland covers. Vikings 17-13.
Pittsburgh at N.Y. Jets
This is a huge trap game for the Steelers. They’ve played three divisional games in a row including a 15 points comeback against the hated Browns last week, and now they go on the road to play a one win team, off a bye, and laying nine points. There’s no way Pittsburgh will be up for this game, putting them on upset alert.
If you look at the statistics, the Steelers should kill them. Pittsburgh (the number two running attack) is rushing for 150 yards per game and the Jets are giving up 150 yards per game on the ground (32nd in the NFL). The road favorites should run the ball down New York’s throats.
If the Jets have anything left, they should be up for this game. They’ve had a week off to get healthy and get ready for this game and they’ve made a popular change at quarterback. Throw out the statistics, it’s now of never for New York.
I can easily see the Jets hanging around in this game. Pittsburgh wins a sloppy one. PIT 21-17.
Upsets of the Week
Atlanta and Detroit