Usually when I write the picks, I normally have a full opening about the past week and try to set the tone for the upcoming games. Although we had a somewhat solid game between the Cowboys and the Packers on Thursday Night Football, the game and or games this week have been foreshadowed with the death of Sean Taylor. Its been rather hard to write something without having to think about the events of the past week.
As I mentioned in the Thursday Night Preview, no one should have to leave this Earth the way Taylor did. No one at all, but its all part of lifes cycle. As this is being written, media outlets are now reporting that 4 suspects have been found and 3 of them have been charged with unpremeditated murder. Although that wont bring Sean Taylor back, the findings may help the people closest to him find solace in their lives in Gods speed.
Location: LP Field, Nashville, TN
Whats going on with the Titans? When the Titans and Texans first met up back in Week 7, the Titans won that game and started a 3 game win streak. Since then, their record is 2-3, theyre 3rd in the AFC South, and are on the verge of missing the playoffs. The Texans, who were hot in the start of the season, have cooled down and have lost 4 of their last 6 games.
Despite the current losing streak, the Titans still has the 5th best defense in the league. The Texans defense is ranked 19th. Offensively, the Titans are ranked 20th while the Texans are ranked 10th. Dont let the stats fool you; although the Titans arent in the top 10 in offense, they have the 4th best rushing offense. The Texans have the 22nd best rushing defense. Take a guess what the Titans will do all day against the weaker rush defense?
With the Titans defensive front being banged up, the Texans have to find a way to move the ball on the ground. They need to wear down the Titans defense and utilize their air attack. With the return of Andre Johnson, the Texans passing game has received a boost and will benefit from a solid run game against the Titans.
The Titans need to go back to their original game plan and just run the ball on offense. Thats including Vince Young. Although he has put up some solid passing numbers in the 2 games, hes a better QB on the run and you dont want to take that away from his game. If the Titans move the ball on the ground effectively, they have this game won.
My Pick: Titans
Location: RCA Dome, Indianapolis, IN
This is a big game for both teams. The Colt won the first match-up in Week 7, 29-7. Since then the Colts have gone 3-2 and have barely held on to their 2nd place spot in the AFC. The Jags are 4-1 since that Week 7 loss and are tearing up the field with their rushing attack. If the Colts win, theyve got the AFC South on lock. If the Jags win, their positioning in the AFC will improve greatly and the AFC South title may come down to the last game of the season.
The Colts have the 4th best offense in the league and the 2nd best defense in the league. The Jags offense is ranked 17th in the league, but they do have the leagues 3rd best rushing offense. Defensively, the Jags are ranked 23rd. That doesnt bold well for a team trying to make that playoff push. Theyve got to get their weight up.
With Peyton Manning leading the charge, and the way the Colts adapt to adversity such as injuries in key spots, the Colts need to continue what they have been doing in the past 3 games. Allow Manning time to look for his targets on offense and follow their assignments if adjustments are made at the line of scrimmage. Defensively, continue to attack the ball like they have been doing all season long. Even though the Colts have lost 2 games this season, their defense has been in the game and its not like theyve been getting blown out.
The Jags know the injury bug has bitten the Colts this season are need to attack them where the Colts are at their weakest. With WR Marvin Harrison still out, the Colts will look to WR Reggie Wayne, TE Dallas Clark, and RB Joseph Addai to turn up the offense with Manning. The Jags need to punch them in the face early in the game and set the tone. Since the RCA Dome is one of the loudest places to play, the Jags need to take the air out of there immediately and shut down the Colts 12th man.
Offensively, keep doing what youve been doing and run the ball. With Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew in the Jags back field, its a task for any defense to stop that rushing attack. The only thing that hurts the Jags is their passing game. The Jags are ranked 23rd in passing offense. Thats reason they are going to lose. A one-sided offense is no good in the league nowadays, just ask the Packers.
My Pick: Colts
Location: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
When the Chargers lost the Chiefs back in Week 4, the Chargers where in disarray. Since that lost, the Chargers are have gone 5-2 and has taken control of the AFC West with the Broncos right on their heels. The Chiefs on the other hand have gone 2-4, lost RB Larry Johnson to injury in their last 3 games and quite possibly their 4th, had RB Priest Holmes retire in the middle of the season, and have been playing the QB Shuffle with Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle. I bet you the Chiefs will be glad when this season is over.
The Chargers have started to get the ball rolling on offense. Philip Rivers is doing just enough to get by and LaDainian Tomlinson and TE Antonio Gates have been steady within in their abilities. Although the Chargers offense is ranked 21st in then league, it has now found its stride in the 5 wins since the first meeting. The defense, which has had good showings against the Colts and the Broncos this season, needs to continue the good work this late in the season as they head to the playoffs. Against the Chiefs, they Chargers defense needs to go after the QB and screw up the passing game. Look for the Chief to try to go to the air in this game to put numbers on the board. If the Chargers shut down the Chiefs passing game and force them to run the ball, this game is theirs.
Offensively, the Chiefs are done. Defensively, Chiefs have the 10th best defense in the league. The Chiefs have to knockout the Chargers big 3 on offense and disrupt the flow. Thats it. Thats all they have to do. If they can throw off the flow of the Chargers offense, maybe their offense can keep it close on the scoreboard and squeak out the win. The key word in that sentence, maybe. It just doesnt look that way. With the Chargers getting their flow back on the offense and the Chiefs looking like a Marx Brothers film with their QB situation, the advantage goes to the Chargers in this game.
My Pick: Chargers
Location: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, MO
The Falcons are another team who has had their hand in the QB Shuffle game. This weeks contestant is QB Joey Harrington as he gets in 2nd straight start since the beginning of the season. The Rams have been the poster boys of an injury plagued team this year. With their season already in the tank, the Rams wont give up. You may beat them, but theyre going to make you work for it. The Rams are 2-1 for their last 3 games and are looking to run the table to hit 7-9 for the season. Honestly, they just might do it.
The Rams need channel the 1999 season and bring back the Greatest Show on Turf. QB Marc Bulger is back, RB Stephen Jackson is back and the WRs are still there. Its time for the Rams offense to get it poppin. The Rams defense needs to force Harringtons hand and make him throw the ball. He is an accident prone QB and with the right pressure applied, mistakes will happen.
The Falcons run game had started to show some life and if they plan on winning, they need to resuscitate it with a defibulator. For the Falcons to win this game on offense, they need to establish the run game and wear down a Rams defense thats been beaten up this year. On defense, the Falcons have to attack the Rams O-line and shut down the offense. Both the Rams and the Falcons lost last week and are hoping to find some joy in a victory this weekend. With a rejuvenated offense, it looks as if the Rams have the upper hand in this contest.
My Pick: Rams
The I Could Care Less Game of the Week:
Location: Dolphin Stadium, Miami, FL
Although I made this the I Could Care Less game of the week, Im still interested in the outcome. Youre probably asking yourself, Why? Well the reason is because somebody has to win this game. Unless the game ends in a tie, but that wont happen this weekend. A while back, I mentioned that I felt that the Jets/Dolphins rivalry was one of the most underrated rivalries in football. I still believe that and this weekend is no exception.
Both teams are playing for pride and an ounce of respect. The Dolphins were hoping to turn around their misfortunes last week by starting the returning Ricky Williams in the MNF game against the Steelers. Well, dont call it a comeback. (How many times have you heard that joke this week about Williams?). Williams is out for the year after having his shoulder blade stepped on in the MNF game. Whats next for the Dolphins? Fire and brimstone will fall from the sky only at Dolphin Stadium? They just cant win for losing.
Both teams are in the basement of almost every NFL statistical category there is. Mind you I said almost. The key to this game is defense and thats what the Dolphins have, defense. Despite being defeated for the season so far, the Dolphins are in the middle of the pack in total defense. The Dolphins defense is ranked 16th in the league. Not bad for a team with no win. Dont look for any big numbers from either teams offense. If you like defense, this is the game.
My Pick: Dolphins
Location: Metrodome, Minneapolis, MN
This is a good NFC North/Central match-up. This is a return to the Black and Blue division. The Lions beat the Vikings back in Week 2, 20-17, with a field goal in OT. Since then, the Lions are 4-5 and are slowly losing any hope of making the playoffs. The Vikes are also 4-5 since the last meeting, but are hoping to get into the race for the playoffs. Along the way, the Vikes debuted their newest mutant, Adrian The Beast Peterson. The kid is good and despite being out for the last 2 games with a knee injury, hes still Rookie of the Year.
The Lions need to go back to basics and do the same things they were doing before their recent slump. They need to strike early through the air on offense and on defense they have to play smash mouth defense. The Vikes have no passing game at all. Last week they got lucky against the Giants and had the G-men shell shocked from the opening drive until the end of the game. Jon Kitna claims the Lions are a better team than the Giants after their loss to the G-men two weeks ago. Well prove it.
Adrian Peterson is questionable for the game this Sunday. That doesnt matter; RB Chester Taylor has been holding it down for the Vikes in the run game. Without a major threat in the passing game, look for the Vikes to grind it out on the ground and go after the Lions D-line. Also, the Vikes has the leagues #1 rushing defense. With the Lions trying to mix up their offense with the return of RB Kevin Jones, look for the Lions to try to run the ball only to get shut down. Since it will be hard for them to run the ball, the Lions will have to go to the air and the Vikes will be prepared for them this time. This Sunday, the Vikes will even up the season series.
My Pick: Vikings
Location: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA
The Seahawks pretty much have the NFC on lock, so they can breathe a little easy and focus on improving their record for possibly a 1st round bye if the things go their way. The Eagles played a good game last weekend and showed us so much last Sunday Night against the Pats. Now they have to do the same against the Seahawks.
The Eagles attacked the line of scrimmage and put some serious pressure on the Pats offense. They also did a good job in containing and doubling some of the Pats main targets. Well hopefully they studied their game tape real well this weekend because thats how you can beat the Seahawks. Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander is returning this Sunday from injury, so you the Seahawks will try to inject him in the offense immediately. The Eagles need to make sure they shut down the run game, contain WR Deion Branch, and attack QB Tim Hasselbeck. On offense, the Eagles need RB Brian Westbrook to let loose and go wild all over the place.
On the Seahawks side of the ball, they need to contain Westbrook and also attack the line. Its still up in the air if Donovan McNabb will start this Sunday. If he doesnt, the A.J. Feely will once again get the call. Feely did a good job in managing the Eagles offense and had it not been for an interception late in last Sundays game, the Eagles might have pulled off the upset. Offensively, the Seahawks have to use everybody on offense. Hasselbeck needs to run the offense similar to how Peyton Manning runs his offense in Indy. He has to use all of his targets against an Eagles defense thats riding on momentum into Sundays game. The Seahawks have the better defense and better coaching staff and it looks as though the student (Andy Reid) will have to get another lesson from the teacher (Mike Holmgren).
My Pick: Seahawks
Location: FedEx Field, Landover, MD
Emotions will be running high this Sunday in Maryland in the wake of Sean Taylors death. Its rumored that both teams will start Sundays game without a Free Safety. Thats very classy on both sides. Much respect due.
The Skins need to hold off the Bills passing game on defense and on offense control the clock by running the ball. The Skins have a ton of talent on offense and theyre the best team money can buy, on paper. The Bills need to shut down Clinton Portis and force the defense on the field. If they Bills defense can do that, then they can take away the Skins ball control.
With emotions high this Sunday in Maryland; the Skins will come out fired up to win this game for Sean.
My Pick: Redskins
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Resilience. The 49ers showed a bunch of it last Sunday. In the Week 1 matchup against the Cards, the 49ers had to come from behind for the win. Last Sunday was déjà vu for the 49ers as they found themselves in a hole and dug out with some great defensive play making late in the game. The 49ers need to show that same resilience against a Panthers team who hasnt won at home this year. The 49ers defense needs to go after whoever is playing QB for the Panthers this Sunday.
On offense, the 49ers need to protect Trent Dilfer. The O-line did a solid job in protecting Dilfer last weekend and they need to do the same in this game. They also did a good job in opening holes for RB Frank Gore. If the 49ers can get their offense going, they can win this game.
With the Panthers having issues at QB and their defense looking banged up, its going to be a long day for the Panthers. They know the 49ers have a very weak offensive line, so they need to get to Dilfer and take down the 49ers offense. On offense, when we know which QB will start for the Panthers, then we can talk. As long as teams keep playing the QB Shuffle, there is chance no way they can win. At least the 49ers have some stability at the QB position even with Alex Smith possibly out for the season. With the 49ers being a little more stable than the Panthers in terms of an offensive leader and the momentum their defense is playing with, they have a better chance at winning this game.
My Pick: 49ers
Location: McAfee Coliseum, Oakland, CA
The Broncos had a rough loss to the Bears last weekend. The Raiders came from behind and beat the Chiefs last weekend. Both teams are trying to make some noise in the AFC West. The Raiders are out of the playoff race while the Broncos are trying to play catch-up to the Chargers. The Broncos need this win more than the Raiders and thats why their going to win this game.
The Raiders need to stop the Broncos run game on defense and they have to establish their own run game on offense. The Broncos have to protect QB Jay Cutler on offense and on defense they have to shut down the Raiders WRs and running game.
With time running out in the season, and the post season right around the corner; the Broncos now theyre backs are against the wall and they need to pull off the win to stay in the race.
My Pick: Broncos
Location: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
The Browns have been the feel good story of the season and with the way their offense has been playing, they have a good chance of making the playoffs. The Cards lost a game they should have won last Sunday, and they need to find a way to get back into the playoff picture in a weak NFC.
The bottom line is that the Cards defense is no match for the high powered Browns offense. Each week, we have watched the Browns shoot it out against defenses and have gotten the win. This game is no different and the Cards defense will be tested this weekend in trying to stop the big weapons on the Browns offense.
Football is alive and kicking in Cleveland and with one of the best 12th man sections in the NFL, the Cards will be hard pressed to shut down the Browns high powered offense.
My Pick: Browns
Location: Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
This will be the battle of the defenses. The Bears defense stepped up last week against the Broncos while the Giants defense just faltered against the Vikes offense. At 7-4, you cant allow yourself to let your guard down this late in the season. The Giants have been known to tank the 2nd half of a season and its beginning to show this season.
The Bears need to find ways to wear down a good Giants defense. With RB Cedric Benson out for the year, its time for Adrian Peterson, PT. 2 to take over the Bears rush offense and make it happen on the run. On defense, get in Elis head and hes no good for the Giants offense.
The Giants have to try to calm Eli Manning down and not force any stupid penalties on offense. Defensively, they need to shake off last weeks performance and take it to the Bears O-line. Although he has been playing good football, lets not forget that Rex Grossman is still playing QB for the Bears this weekend. Enough said.
My Pick: Giants
Location: Superdome, New Orleans, LA
The Bucs are hurting at QB. With Jeff Garcia suffering a back injury, his status is unsure for this Sundays game. With no Garcia the Saints got the opening they need going into Sunday. Garcia will be a game day decision.
The Bucs just need to shut down the Saints offense and attack right away at the line of scrimmage. On the offensive side of the ball, whoever is playing QB for the Bucs, protect them. The O-line needs to make sure no one gets to the QB and they need to give him time to control the clock.
The Saints need to jump out early on offense. Allow Drew Brees and Reggie Bush to set the tone of the offense early in the game. On defense, they need to attack the O-line and put pressure on the Bucs QB. If the Bucs shut down the Saints offense early in the game, then it wont matter whos playing QB for the Saints because the game will be over by the start of the 3rd quarter.
My Pick: Buccaneers
Sunday Night Game:
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
The Steelers have found the wrong time of the season to start playing get by football. They have found ways to just get by in 2 of their last 3 games. They barley beat the Browns in Week 10, played a sloppy game in the lost to the Jets, and just got by the Dolphins in the Mud Bowl last week on MNF. This offense needs to stop looking for the big play on offense and play fundamental football. Thats what helped them get the wins they have gotten in the beginning of the season and its whats going to help them as they go into the playoffs.
The Bengals season is pretty much done and with no defense, they have to have their offense to try to win games for them by forcing shoot-outs. WR Chad Johnson grabbed 3 TDs last weekend. That was the first time he had seen the end zone since Week 2 and if they want to beat the Steelers, they need to make sure he finds the end zone again this weekend. The Bengals have to have all hands on deck on offense and take it to the Steelers defense.
These two teams have had a bit of a heated rivalry dating to the 2005-06 AFC Wild Card game when Carson Palmer was knocked out in the first quarter after tearing ligaments in his knee. The Steelers defense is too much for the Bengals offense and with no defense, it looks as though the Steelers will get another win in this rivalry.
My Pick: Steelers