With the baseball season over with, the NFL finally takes center stage in week 10.
This week’s slate of games features some potential great matchups, including the annual tilt between Peyton Manning’s Colts and Tom Brady’s Patriots.
Following two straight losing weeks, I’m now 74-55 on the season and hoping to bounce back with a slew of winners. I’ve already nailed one game this week (thanks, Jay Cutler). Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.
Remember that all picks are for entertainment purposes only. I apologize if you’re not entertained, but don’t ask for a refund.
I base my picks on flawed logic, personal opinion, age-old gambling trends, and matchups. If you’re looking for high-end analysis and haven’t found it elsewhere by now…I can’t help you.
Here now are the week ten picks, with the home team in bold .
Jacksonville (+6.5) over NY Jets
Fresh off their bye week, the Jets are in a good position to get their season back on track, facing a mediocre Jaguars team that couldn’t cover the spread at home against the Kansas City Chiefs last week.
The Jets, however, have struggled against teams that predominantly use the run on offense since Kris Jenkins’ season ended, and the Jaguars have one of the best running backs in the league: Maurice Jones-Drew.
Of course, the Jaguars have trouble stopping the run themselves, and the Jets will exploit this weakness in the Jags’ defense.
Assuming both teams run equally well and neither team turns the ball over excessively, this could be a close game. With that in mind, the Jaguars should cover the spread.
Jets 21, Jaguars 20
Denver (-4) over Washington
I was talking to a colleague at work about this game earlier in the week, and we both agreed that this felt like a classic “trap” game for the Broncos.
Denver’s lost two straight, they’re coming off a short week, and travelling to the east coast. Their offense is struggling to score points, and they’re facing a team with a solid defense, statistically-speaking. Plus, the Redskins, losers of four straight, could be due for a good performance, we mused.
These are just idle thoughts, borne from a casual conversation following Denver’s loss to Pittsburgh last week, though. The truth is, the Broncos should win this game by a touchdown or more.
Denver is facing a weak Washington offense that struggles to move the football down the field and allowed five sacks in last week’s loss to the Falcons. The Broncos should re-establish themselves defensively. On offense, if Denver can sustain drives, they will put points on the board as they wear down Washington’s defense.
Broncos 28, Redskins 10
Pittsburgh (-7) over Cincinnati
At the beginning of the season, I picked the Steelers to repeat as Super Bowl champions (see my NFL Haiku Preview here ).
Last week, in the second half of their game against the Broncos, the Steelers looked every bit the team capable of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at season’s end. They ran the football effectively, their defense forced turnovers, and their offensive line protected Ben Roethlisberger. Looking solely at those 30 minutes of football, it’s easy to envision Pittsburgh as Super Bowl champions.
The Bengals are a good football team. Their cornerbacks match up well against the Steelers’ receivers, and their defensive line has done a nice job all season containing the opponents’ running backs. Having to account for Rashard Mendenhall, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace and Heath Miller will likely prove to be too much for Cincinnati though.
Plus, having nearly won their first matchup this season, the Steelers will not be lacking for motivation in this game.
Steelers 27, Bengals 13
Tennessee (-6.5) over Buffalo
Chris Johnson is averaging over 6.5 yards per carry and leads the NFL in rushing yards. He and the Titans face the NFL’s worst run defense this week, the Buffalo Bills.
Assuming Vince Young continues to hand the ball off and stay out of Johnson’s way, then Version 2.0 of the Vince Young Era will be 3-0 by the end of Sunday’s game against the Bills.
Titans 27, Bills 14
Minnesota (-16.5) over Detroit
Sure, they have only one win, but the Detroit Lions are, for the most part, playing competitive football this season.
The Vikings will win this game. That’s a given. They are far superior to the Lions, playing at home, and coming off their bye week. They will be rested and ready.
This is a risky pick, just because of the size of the spread. However, the Vikings should win by this much, perhaps more. Detroit can hang with the Vikings for a while, but Minnesota should be able to pull away by forcing turnovers.
Vikings 34, Lions 14
New Orleans (-13.5) over St. Louis
After trailing in their last three games, the Saints need to execute their offense better from the beginning of games through the end.
This week, New Orleans should be able to demonstrate what their offense is capable of. A big early lead will force the Rams to shelve the running attack, forcing them to throw the football and play into the hands of the Saints opportunistic defense.
I recognize the Rams are fresh off their first win of the season. Given the gaps in personnel and ability between the two teams, the Saints shouldn’t have much trouble.
Saints 37, Rams 10
Carolina (+1.5) over Atlanta
Fresh off a relatively easy win over the Redskins, the Falcons travel to face the Panthers, a team that is similar to the Falcons in a lot of ways.
Both teams run the ball well. Both teams feature mediocre defenses. Both teams’ quarterbacks have had their share of struggles this season.
The difference between the two teams is records. While Atlanta enters this game at 5-3 and in the playoff hunt, the Panthers are 3-5 and are a longshot, at best, at earning a wildcard spot. Despite that one lone difference, I visualize these teams as extremely similar.
With that in mind, I’m taking the Panthers to cover and win outright. Atlanta is 1-3 on the road, and Matt Ryan has put up some clunkers away from the Georgia Dome this year. The Panthers should be able to take advantage of Ryan’s mistakes, giving them more opportunities to run the ball against Atlanta’s weak run defense.
Panthers 24, Falcons 21
Miami (-10) over Tampa Bay
It’s difficult to believe that a team with a losing record would be double-digit favorites over another team with a losing record. And yet, that’s the NFL of 2009.
As well as Miami has played in their losses, the reason why those games went from wins to losses has a lot to do with the opposing quarterback. Could anyone other than Peyton Manning put up 27 points while having fewer than 15 minutes of game time to do it? Could anyone other than Drew Brees have engineered a comeback win from down 24-3?
Tampa Bay doesn’t have Drew Brees, Tom Brady, or Peyton Manning. They don’t have Phillip Rivers or Matt Ryan either. And because their run defense won’t be able to slow down the Dolphins’ running backs, the Buccaneers don’t have a shot.
Dolphins 31, Buccaneers 10
Kansas City (+2) over Oakland
There’s precious little to say about these two teams that hasn’t already been said. They both stink.
The last time these teams met, the Raiders snuck out of Arrowhead Stadium with a win. The Chiefs dominated statistically, but Matt Cassel threw two interceptions.
The Chiefs have been involved in more competitive games this season than the Raiders, they have more intriguing talent on both sides of the ball, and, despite how poorly they’ve played this year, they seem to be headed in the right direction.
Chiefs 15, Raiders 12
Arizona (-8.5) over Seattle
The Seahawks have yet to win a road game. In fact, they’ve yet to even play well enough on the road to keep them competitive in an away game this season.
There are lingering injury questions about Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck. Plus, the Seahawks are among the worst running teams in the NFL, and their defense is average at best. For a team that has failed to play well on the road, these are significant issues to deal with as they play against the NFC West-leading Cardinals.
The last time these two teams met, Arizona limited Seattle to just three points. Kurt Warner is fresh off one of the best performances of his career, and Arizona’s offense seems to be clicking right now.
The Cardinals are the better team in this matchup. They’ve yet to play well at home, but perhaps this is the week they rectify that.
Cardinals 31, Seahawks 14
Philadelphia (+2.5) over San Diego
The Chargers come home following the euphoria of an uplifting win. The Eagles come into this game after losing a tough home game against division-rival Dallas.
This is a pivotal game for both teams. San Diego is chasing Denver in the AFC West, and the Eagles are trailing the Cowboys and need the win to stay ahead of the Giants in the NFC East.
The Eagles seem to be the better team. They have several weapons on offense to stretch out the Chargers’ defense. They should be able to run and pass successfully against San Diego. Their defense has limited most opponents to 20 or fewer points; only in their loss at New Orleans have the Eagles surrendered more than 20 points in a game.
The Chargers, meanwhile, don’t have the same versatility on offense. They haven’t run the ball well all season long and their passing offense seems limited to Phillip Rivers throwing downfield to Vincent Jackson.
It won’t be an easy task for the Eagles to go west and beat San Diego on the road, but I’m picking them to pull it off.
Eagles 24, Chargers 17
Dallas (-3) over Green Bay
Nothing would delight me more than to see the Packers pull off the upset.
Aaron Rodgers is a very good, under-publicized quarterback, and his receiving corps provides him with ample talent to score a lot of points. When Rodgers passes the ball successfully, the Packers are fun to watch.
However, between a pedestrian running attack and a porous offensive line, the Packers don’t do well at protecting Rodgers. He is sacked more than any other quarterback in the league.
In order to stay on the fringes of the NFC wildcard chase, the Packers need to win this game. Motivation won’t be an issue for the Packers, but their ability to stop the Cowboys might be.
Dallas has won four straight, with each win more impressive than the last it seems. There could be some let-down following their gritty win at Philadelphia last week, but the Cowboys are completely healthy on offense, and their defense has played better in recent weeks. Until some team knocks them off, or until the Cowboys suffer an injury to a key player, I don’t foresee them losing many games.
Cowboys 31, Packers 24
New England (+3) over Indianapolis
I could wax poetic about the similarities between these teams, or how Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks, or how this game figures to be a ratings bonanza for NBC.
Instead, I’ll keep it brief. New England isn’t exactly a run-it-down-your-throat kind of team, but their skill players on offense are all healthy, and Pats’ coach Bill Bellichick will find ways to exploit the Colts’ injury-riddled defense, and that could mean more screen passes, or more touches for Laurence Maroney, among other tactics.
The Colts will certainly score their share of points. However, unless the Colts can score on every drive, they won’t win this game.
Patriots 31, Colts 27
Baltimore (-11) over Cleveland
The Ravens’ defense isn’t what it used to be. Opposing running backs have had over 100 yards rushing against Baltimore in three of their last four games. In all, the Ravens have lost four of their last five.
Given those facts about the Ravens, the point spread for this game speaks volumes about their opponents, the Cleveland Browns, who are the Los Angeles Clippers or Washington Nationals of the NFL.
Ravens 27, Browns 7