Last Week: 5-7-1
The Herman Cain special:
Tennessee (-9) over Indianapolis
Houston (-9) over Jacksonville
San Francisco (-9) over Cleveland
I'm calling these games the "Herman Cain 9-9-9 I don't know what the hell is going to happen" games, because the spreads seem ridiculously high in all 3. But I'm going with the favorites. Tennessee is fresh off a 34-point walloping against a Texans team that hadn't been all that impressive up to that point. The Colts are fresh off a 55-point walloping against a very good Saints team, but still, 55 points?
I'm taking Tennessee because the Colts suck. It's that simple. But what's happened to Chris Johnson this season has been incredibly surprising. Nobody expected his holdout to make a huge difference in his performance, and while there's a chance the holdout is what's hurting him, it's much more likely the missed off-season workouts due to the lockout have hurt him more. He's running poorly. My theory? Remember that show that used to be on the Disney channel, years ago, called "The Jersey?" The main characters could put on an old jersey and be that player for a game, a play, etc. I'm convinced some kid found a jersey like that and he's been Chris Johnson for every game this season. How else could you explain a 2.9 average? DeMarco Murray ran for 253 yards last week. Chris Johnson has ran for 268 yards ALL SEASON. But I'm taking the Titans, because, yes, the Colts are that bad.
I don't think Houston is as good as their 41-7 drubbing of the Titans last week, but I also don't think the Jaguars deserve a whole lot of credit for the way the Ravens played last week. Andre Johnson still won't play this week, but even without him I think Arian Foster and company will have plenty of fire power to cover a nine point spread. I can't believe I'm taking Alex Smith -9, but when he's playing a Browns offense that has looked bad, thanks in part because of below average play from Colt McCoy, a blowout is certainly possible for the 5-1 49ers.
The "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes:
Carolina (-3.5) over Minnesota
New Orleans (-13.5) over St. Louis
New York Giants (-9.5) over Miami
Arizona (+12.5) over Baltimore
The Vikings, Rams, Dolphins and Cardinals all remain viable candidates for the number one overall pick. Of course, the previously mentioned Indianapolis Colts arguably hold the poll position as this point in the season, but all four of these teams will have a chance this week to show they, too, can be incredibly bad for a whole season.
Cam Newton should shred an injured, suspended and porous Vikings pass defense at home. Drew Brees and company should cruise past the Rams without issue, especially if the Cowboys were able to beat the Rams so easily last week. The Dolphins players may not like the "Suck for Luck" talk, but I fully expect them to prove again this week that Andrew Luck is really the only player that can turn them around quickly. I think Arizona will get a surprisingly good game from Kevin Kolb, and while I'm not going to go as far as to predict an upset, I do think the Cardinals will keep the game close enough late to help me cover.
"They gave all that money to who? What idiots...we were for doubting them."
Buffalo (-5.5) over Washington
San Diego (-3.5) over Kansas City
The Chiefs traded a second round pick in the 2009 draft for Matt Cassel, and then gave him a six-year, $63MM extension. Cassel was coming off an 11-5 season with the Patriots, a QB rating just under 90, almost 4,000 yards passing and 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. In his first season in Kansas City Cassel looked like a terrible acquisition, completing just 55% of his passes, throwing the same number of interceptions as touchdowns (16) and posting a QB rating of 69.9. However, last season Cassel was great, throwing 27 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions while completing an improved 58% of his passes. His completion percentage this season is at 63.5%, and although his QB rating is just above 80, he's been very good in 3 of the last 4 games. I think he'll play average this week but Philip Rivers will finally have a monster game and lead the Chargers to victory.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was a seventh round pick by the Rams in 2005. A lot has been made of his intelligence, because he went to Harvard, but my favorite story is that he scored a 48 on his wonderlic test at the NFL combine before he was drafted, and he completed the test in 9 minutes. NINE minutes. Ridiculous. After a few seasons with St. Louis and the Bengals the Bills signed Fitzpatrick prior to the 2009 season. After posting a 69.7 QB rating in 10 games in 2009, nobody expected too much from him in the future. Then Trent Edwards was benched early in the 2010 season, and since then Fitzpatrick has played well. He posted a QB rating of 81.8 last year in 13 games, and while that's hardly spectacular, it's at least average. He's been much better this season, though, as his QB rating is a stellar 95.7 through 6 games. Cassel is starting to prove that he was worth the money the Chiefs spent; hopefully for the Bills they'll get similar production from Fitzpatrick over the next few seasons. I fully expect him to continue to play well, but maybe not as well as he has thus far.
The Delmon Youngs of Week 8:
Detroit (-3) over Denver
Philadelphia (-3.5) over Dallas
These teams have all received a lot of media hype over the last 7 weeks, but continue to under perform despite their "potential" just like Delmon Young.
Other than Denver, all of these teams are not only hoping to make the playoffs, but to make some noise once they get there. The Lions have lost back-to-back games after starting 5-0, and if they go into Denver and lose to Tim Tebow and the Broncos, the hype machine surrounding Detroit might start to quiet down. This a huge game for them to show they are for real. As far as the Eagles, this is probably their last chance to prove that they are in fact a contender, because if they lose to Dallas and fall to 2-5 they might as well just accept the fact that this isn't their year. The Cowboys could potentially bounce back from a loss this week, but a win could potentially eliminate a divisional foe. It's a big game.
The AFC Championship Preview:
New England (-3) over Pittsburgh
I'd be very surprised if it's not these two teams playing in the AFC Championship game in January. Look for Brady and the Pats to win a shootout with Roethlisberger and the Steelers this time.