N.Y Giants at Chicago
The Bears grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat last week in dramatic fashion. Chicago was outplayed for three quarters of the game, but two kick returns for a touchdown by Hester in the fourth quarter were enough to get the home team the victory over the visiting Broncos. This is the fourth time Chicago has made a fourth quarter comeback this season, which isn’t a flattering statistic for a 5-6 football team. This team could be looking at 1-10 without Hester. It will be difficult for Chicago to steal back-to-back games without help from their special teams once again.
Outside of their special teams, there isn’t much to like about the Bears. They haven’t won back-to-back games all season. Chicago’s offensive struggles are well known, especially at the quarterback position. The team is average just 300 offensive yards per game. Losing starting RB Benson’s not going to make scoring any easier. Neither will losing RT Fred Miller, who has battled injury and given up sacks while playing injured. The G-men lead the NFL with 38 sacks, six more than the Bears. Someone has to try and block Giants DE’s Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. Chicago has to keep their runningbacks or tight ends in to help their tackles, but using that tactic will further limit their offense.
The defense hasn’t looked good, with each of the last seven opponents running for more than 100 yards and giving up an average of 127 rushing yards per game this season. The Bears are last in the NFC against the rush and 13th against the pass.
The Giants looked terrible last week. QB Manning threw four interceptions, three returned for touchdowns in that 41-17 home loss to Minnesota. N.Y. hasn’t lost back to back games since the first two weeks of the season. The Giants are a better team than the Bears and I expect them to win this game fairly easily. NYG wins 27-13.
Cleveland at Arizona
The Browns have gone over the total in ten of eleven games this season. A high-powered offense and a pitiful defense are the right ingredients for high-scoring games. This week should be another track meet as the Cards offense is playing well while injuries are devastating their defense.
The bodies just keep piling up. Two weeks ago it was outside linebacker/defensive end Bertrand Berry who went down with a torn triceps. This week starting cornerback Eric Green was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn groin muscle against the 49ers on Sunday. On Tuesday, strong safety Adrian Wilson found out he needs surgery on his sore right heel/Achilles, which has caused him to miss the past two games. Wilson's regular backup, Aaron Francisco, has missed four of the past five games, including the last two, with knee and calf injuries. The chances of him playing against the Browns are slim and none. Arizona is fresh out of defensive backs and will struggle to cover the Browns multiple receiver sets. It’s likely they will play base defense for most of the game.
The Cardinals offense is clicking on all cylinders. QB Kurt Warner threw for 484 yards in a loss to the 49ers. He completed 34 of 48 passes in that game. The match-up does not bode well for the Browns. WR Larry Fitzgerald, 6-foot-3, 226 pounds, caught nine passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers. WR Anquan Boldin, 6-foot-1, 223 pounds, caught six passes for 76 yards. Both receivers are significantly bigger and faster than Cleveland’s secondary personnel. The Browns defense still ranks last in the league, allowing 398 yards a game. Cleveland is the only team in the league to have allowed more than 300 points, so expect the Cardinals offense to have their way with them.
First team to punt loses this game. If you like passing and scoring this in must-see TV. Cards win 34-31.
Detroit at Minnesota
Two teams headed in different directions.
So much for Detroit’s 6-2 start. Three straight losses later the Lions are back to 6-5 and facing the hardest part of their schedule. After this game, the Lions final four games include the Cowboys, Packers, and Chargers. Ouch! If Detroit is going to make the playoffs the need a rare road victory in Minneapolis.
Meanwhile the Vikings have rallied from a rough first two months of the season. Minnesota started 2-5 and now has won three of their last four games, including last weeks drilling of the Giants. The Vikings final four games are against San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, and Denver. Challenging games, but winnable. Given the momentum on both teams, one team winning big games and one team choking and looking at the possibility of a final eight game disaster, I expect the Vikings to give the Lions their fourth straight defeat.
The series history would favor the home team. Minnesota has won 14 of the last 16 games in this series and nine straight at the Metrodome. The Vikings have dominated this series winning twice as many games as they have lost.
It doesn’t look good for the visitors. The Lions have shown in their last three games (loses) that they just don’t know how to win big games. And make no mistake this is a big game for both teams. If Detroit loses four in a row, this team will collapse. If the Vikings are 5-7 after the game, there are probably too many teams to climb over to make the playoffs. In a big game, I don’t want any part of Detroit. Minnesota wins 31-24.
San Francisco at Carolina
NFC brutal game of the week. The Panthers have lost six of their last eight games including five straight. The Panthers have been outscored 200-70 in their last seven home games, all losses. Before last week’s victory over Arizona, the 49ers had lost eight straight games. They are averaging just 13.6 points per game and 9.5 points per game in that losing streak. Yes, these are truly two bad offensive football teams. What else is there to write? San Francisco pulls the upset 16-13.
San Francisco, Arizona, Philadelphia