In Week Nine, we will find out what we want to know about three teams playing big games. The Dallas Cowboys have been playing well of late, but are they for real? We will find out on Sunday as they play Philadelphia on the road.
In the past we have been duped into believing that the Cowboys were a very good team that was not playing up to their talent. The fact was, and is, that they are a mediocre team with a mediocre quarterback.
Tony Romo's struggles in critical moments in big games, and in the playoffs have been well documented. A lot of that, I believe, has to do with with Dallas's play-calling and what they have asked him to do.
The coaches and coordinators are asking him to win games like an elite quarterback, and that he is not. Instead of pounding the ball and setting up their passing game, the coaches ask Romo to make just about all of the plays.
Tony Romo's accuracy in fourth quarters in big games against good teams is not good. When pressured he doesn't step into his throws. He bails on a lot of them and it causes him to be inaccurate and throw picks.
Dallas would be better served using Romo like the Ravens use Flacco. He is not an elite quarterback.
Speaking of the Ravens, if they want to get back into the race in the AFC North, they have to have this game against the Bengals. Baltimore has struggled against the pass, which is uncharacteristic for them, but they are still capable of making big plays on that side of the ball.
They shut down Denver last week for just about the whole game, which is what we are used to seeing from them. A healthy Carson Palmer and a stout defense has made all the difference in the world for the Bengals.
Palmer has been clutch in the big moments of games, like the last drive against Baltimore in their first meeting. We know a healthy Palmer can be a difference maker, but no one has associated the Bengals with good defense in a long time. They have been especially good against the run.
The Giants look nothing like the team that started the season. Eli Manning and the offense look lost, and their defense has shown some cracks. In their last three games, Manning looks befuddled when he is looking for a receiver downfield.
He doesn't look comfortable at all, and one wonders if he doesn't have confidence in his receivers. Their receivers certainly don't scare anyone, and have had problems getting open. Could it be that Plaxico not being not being there is affecting Eli more than they are saying?
The Giants are desperate, and if they cannot move the ball against San Diego, they can give up on any hopes of winning the division.
The Chargers will test the Giants defense with a variety of looks and formations. They too are fighting for their playoff lives, so the loser of this game could be on the outside looking in.
Playoff teams come through with their backs against the wall. We will see which ones pass the test this week.
Ravens (-3) at Bengals
I think the Bengals are for real. Their ability to shut down the run translates well in this game. Take the Bengals and the points.
Neither of these teams are very good. The Jags are home, and when clicking they can put up a lot of points. I will take them and give the points.
Peyton Manning has shown no signs of slowing down. He is having an MVP type season. They are home. That being said, the Texans are capable of scoring points as well and have weapons, but not enough to overcome the Colts. Take the Colts and give the points.
Must win game for the Falcons. For their confidence they will want to win big. With the Redskins in disarray, take the Falcons and give the points.
I can't remember a time when there were so many bad teams in the league. Aaron Rodgers and company should be able to put up enough points to cover this spread. Tampa Bay is still trying to find their way on offense, and finding out if they have a franchise quarterback. Take the Pack.
Jay Cutler has looked ordinary of late, and the Cardinals look like they are playing a more physical brand of football. Arizona is playing better at this point, and conventional wisdom says to go with them, since this looks like a bad match up for Chicago's defense. Take the Cardinals and the points.
Not sold on the Dolphins defense keeping this one close. Brady and company should pull away late at home and cover.
The Saints look like the best team in the league and are firing on all cylinders. Even though this is a lot of points, still take the Saints and give the points.
Two teams that are playing out the string. Seahawks are better than the Lions, but not good enough to be a lock to cover 10 points at home. Take the Lions and the points.
Steelers (-3) at Broncos
We will find out all about the Broncos this week as they try to rebound from a tough loss last week. I don't think the Steelers will cooperate, even with a less than dominating defense. Take Pitt and give the points.
Locks fo r Week Nine
The Titans won their first game, but the buck will stop here with the 49ers. They should cover easily. Take San Fran and give the points.
Cowboys at Eagles (-3)
Another big game for the Cowboys on the road, and it will be another loss, as Philly takes control of the division. Take the Eagles and give the points.
Chargers at Giants (-5)
I know that teams traveling east have a poor track record, but there is nothing that I like looking at the Giants. Manning has the Super Bowl, buy Phillip Rivers has looked like the better quarterback this year. Take the Chargers and the points.
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