Thursday, November 11, 2010

NFL Week 10 Picks: Minnesota Vikings Continue Winning Ways Against Chicago Bears

AP Photos/Andy King

Late in the fourth quarter, the Vikings were down by 14 and it looked like the season was about to finally crash down on them. Then Brett Favre reached way back, pulled some of that old magic from his hat, and sparked a comeback that included a game-tying touchdown to Visanthe Shiancoe with 27 seconds left.

In overtime, the Vikings finished the game off, scoring a field goal for the victory. So now the Vikings are still within reach of climbing the division standings.

Miami and Tennessee are also both middle of the pack teams, trying everything they can to jump into the playoffs. The Titans claimed Randy Moss off waivers, and the Dolphins have made Chad Pennington starting quarterback once again. These two teams will square off in Week 10.

Also, all four NFC West teams, all within two games of each other in the standings, will also face each other.

Who will strengthen their playoff positions? Who will fall back?

Baltimore (6-2) at Atlanta (6-2)

The Ravens had a nice 16-point win last week, and many look at them as one of the top three teams in the NFL. However there was one alarming stat: they went 1-7 in the red zone.

Baltimore was able to get three interceptions off Miami, and for some off reason they stopped running the ball, even though Ronnie Brown averaged 6.6 yards per carry after a great first drive.

Atlanta will not do either. They have a plus-seven turnover ratio and they run the ball extremely well, while not venturing away from it. The Falcons will not give the Ravens any chances and they will continue to go to Michael Turner, eighth best in rushing yards in the NFL.

Atlanta wins.

Detroit (2-6) at Buffalo (0-8)

Half a season and still no wins, but every week now they seem to be on the doorstep. Could this weekend be the one in which the stars align right?

The Bills are the worst team in the league in defending the run, but the Lions rank 30th in the NFL with only 81.8 rushing yards per game. So it’s hard to imagine they’ll really take advantage of the Bills there.

The Lions rank eighth in the NFL in passing yards per game, but surprisingly the Bills are actually sixth in pass defense. Also, the Lions are literally hurting at the quarterback position. Matthew Stafford may be out for the year due to a reoccurring shoulder injury. Shaun Hill is scheduled to start, but he’s coming off an arm injury which would leave them with Drew Stanton.

The Bills will need to be more effective in the running game and more balanced on offense in general.

Still, it is tough to go a whole season without winning a single game (unless you are Detroit).

Buffalo wins.

Minnesota (3-5) at Chicago (5-3)

A courageous last-minute comeback from the Vikings kept them, surprisingly, in the hunt for the division championship.

Turnovers will need to be cut down (three turnovers and two interceptions), but the Vikings have the firepower to get through it. Brett Favre threw for an astonishing 446 yards last week and he got strong games from a variety of sources: Percy Harvin had nine catches for 126 yards, Bernard Berrian had nine catches for 89 yards, Visanthe Shiancoe had 66 yards and the game-tying touchdown, Greg Camarillo contributed 66 yards, and Adrian Peterson was productive on both the ground and the passing game with a touchdown and over 60-yards in each.

The Vikings need to cut back on the turnovers, which will help them escape from such a huge early deficit. And if they can keep the game close, they can rush the ball more with Peterson, not only using his skills, but also eating up some clock and not letting the game be decided by a Favre mistake.

Chicago has struggled to get their offense going. Last week against the Bills, Buffalo actually outgained them, and the Bears had seven penalties. They were bailed out by the Bills three turnovers.

Minnesota wins.

New York Jets (6-2) at Cleveland (3-5)

The rushing game, both offensively and defensively, helped the Browns really beat-down the Patriots. It will be a different game this week, however.

The Patriots defense has been shaky all season, and they don’t have a viable rushing game to counter-back. Not to take anything away from how hard Cleveland and Peyton Hillis played, but the Jets are much better in both areas.

They really stuff the run, allowing only 87.4, fourth-best in the NFL. They also are fourth-best in rushing offense, rushing for 148 yards per game. They can’t take Cleveland for granted, but the Jets will grind it out against the Browns.

New York wins.

Tennessee (5-3) at Miami (4-4)

Everyone is anxiously awaiting Randy Moss’ debut with the Titans, but the Dolphins were also very active this week, signing veteran cornerback Al Harris and appointing Chad Pennington the new starting quarterback.

Especially with Kenny Britt injured, Moss should provide a huge boost to the Titans 26th ranked passing attack. Many people are excited about the possibilities of what Moss can do to help clear space for Chris Johnson, but wasn’t he supposed to do the same for Adrian Peterson in Minnesota? And he had a better second receiver with Percy Harvin than Nate Washington will be. It may come down to how much better of a coach Jeff Fischer is than Brad Childress.

Pennington cannot throw the deep ball like Chad Henne can. However, it hadn’t really been incorporated as much in the offense as people would’ve liked. Pennington is a much more accurate passer than Henne, and he won’t force the ball, so turnovers won’t be the issue. Marshall will still get his looks, as he put up over 100 receptions with Kyle Orton as his quarterback in Denver last year; and they are similar style passers.

Pennington’s infusion will also mean more emphasis on the rushing game. Ronnie Brown averaged 6.6 yards per carry last week against a tough Ravens D, but for some reason Miami didn’t go to him after a strong first drive. Marshall even lobbied for him to get more carries. Pennington’s presence will get him that.

Miami wins.

Cincinnati (2-6) at Indianapolis (5-3)

It’s tough to think about how the Colts will replace Austin Collie, second on the team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, yet the Colts always seem to be able to fill in for people, just like Jacob Tamme and his 108 receiving yards and one touchdown did for Dallas Clark last week.

Pierre Garcon is getting healthier by the week, and he should have a much bigger impact on the game.

The Colts are incredibly weak against the run, but the Bengals have seemingly abandoned the rushing aspect of their offense.

Indianapolis wins.

Houston (4-4) at Jacksonville (4-4)

Matt Schaub suffered a rib injury in the last game, but he anticipates he will play and Jacksonville is a good matchup for him and the Texans.

The Jaguars allow 267.1 passing yards per game (28th in the NFL). While the Texans give up a league-worst 298.3 yards per game, the Jaguars won’t be able to capitalize like the Texans (233.6 yards per game, 12th in the league) as they throw for only 181.4 yards per game (28th in the NFL).

Maurice Jones-Drew gives the Jaguars a potent rushing attack, but Arian Foster gives the Texans a very balanced offense. He leads the NFL in rushing yards, and the Jaguars don’t do very well defending the run.

Houston wins.

Carolina (1-7) at Tampa Bay (5-3)

The Panthers are last in the NFL in points per game (11.0), last in yards gained per game (244.4) and last in turnover differential (-11).

They also rank last in the league in passing yards per game and both of their top running backs, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, are banged up and their playing status is up in the air.

The Buccaneers may not have pulled off a victory against the Falcons last week, but they played it close. Their rushing game was bested by Atlanta’s and Josh Freeman’s two interceptions didn’t help, but this team is better than Carolina.

Tampa Bay wins.

Kansas City (5-3) at Denver (2-6)

There seems to be a familiar trend across the NFL. Teams that pass the ball exceptionally well (Denver, Cincinnati and Dallas) do not necessarily win games. Most of the times they need to pass so much because they are behind by so many points.

Meanwhile rushing the ball allows teams to control the clock and tire the defense.

It isn’t a shocking revelation, but no matter how good a team’s passing game is, if they do not have a running game to compliment it, they don’t fare very well.
Denver has the third best passing attack, but they only have two wins. Meanwhile, their running game is the absolute worst in the league, averaging only 67.3 yards per game. Also, their defense is extremely vulnerable to the run, ranked 31st in the league.

The Chiefs may only be ranked 30th in the passing game, but they are first in rushing yards per game (179.6). Jamaal Charles is sixth in the league in rushing yards with 719, and Thomas Jones has chipped in a very respectable 570 rushing yards, good enough to be in the top 20. The Chiefs are the only team to have two runners in the top 20 in rushing yards.

Kansas City wins.

Seattle (4-4) at Arizona (3-5)

The Seahawks have lost both of their previous two games by an average of 32 points. The Cardinals have lost their previous two games by an average of three points.

Arizona played a strong three and a half quarters before inexplicably letting the Vikings back into the game. Larry Fitzgerald had his first 100-yard receiving game of the season, and Derek Anderson didn’t throw an interception.

Anderson also gets a consecutive start, so if he and Fitzgerald can get a rhythm going, they could dominate a Seahawks pass defense that is ranked 30th in the league allowing 270.5 passing yards per game.

Arizona wins.

Dallas (1-7) at New York Giants (6-2)

The Giants have scored 41 points in both of their previous two games, the first against coming against Dallas. The pass rush has been terrorizing quarterbacks all season and is tied for fifth in the league in sacks (24). They have put pressure on the quarterback and forced turnovers and throwaways. They also have allowed the fewest yards in the NFL (2005).

Dallas just fired its head coach, and while it was a move that did need to be made, it doesn’t change too much. Turnovers and silly penalties have plagued this team all year and the players have not responded.

Jon Kitna, taking over for the injured Tony Romo, has thrown six interceptions in both games he has started, and the running game isn’t taking any pressure off him as the unit is ranked 31st in the NFL.

New York wins.

St. Louis (4-4) at San Francisco (2-6)

Frank Gore dominated in the 49’ers last game, and his dominance allowed Troy Smith to play well. He wasn’t forced to make big plays so he didn’t, and that resulted in zero turnovers.

A lot of the 4-4 Rams’ success comes from their ability to stop the run. In four wins the Rams only allow 71 rushing yards per game. However, in four losses they allow 124.5 rushing yards per game.

Frank Gore is heating up, rushing for over 100 yards in each of his past three games and scored his first touchdown his last game since Week 2. If he can keep up the hot pace, San Francisco could keep themselves in the race for the division crown.

San Francisco wins.

New England (6-2) at Pittsburgh (6-2)

The Pats got spanked by the Browns Sunday and it isn’t a sure thing they’ll bounce back from it.

New England surrendered a whopping 230 rushing yards, 181 of which were to Peyton Hillis. With such a dominating rushing performance, the Browns also ruled the time of possession battle.

What the Browns did the Steelers will do even better. Rashard Mendenhall is seventh in the NFL in rushing yards (702), tied for third in rushing touchdowns (seven) and he is a physical runner, so he’ll make sure to eat up a lot of clock.

Ben Roethlisberger is an upgrade over Colt McCoy (not taking anything away from what McCoy has done thus far) and the Steelers defense is tough, especially with James Harrison and Troy Polamalu separating players from the ball.

The game is also in Pittsburgh where the Steelers are tough to beat, and New England hasn’t been very good on the road.

Pittsburgh wins.

Philadelphia (5-3) at Washington (4-4)

Last time, the Redskins went into Philadelphia and emotions were high as Donovan McNabb returned to Philly since they traded him. Eagles’ starter Michael Vick was injured and Washington pulled away with a victory.

Six weeks later and McNabb was pulled in his last game, with Coach Shanahan saying he didn’t know the two-minute offense well enough. While there is some controversy in Washington, Philadelphia got Vick back last week and things are looking good.
The Redskins rank 31st in passing yards allowed per game, allowing 280.9. The Eagles passing attack ranks 10th in the league, averaging 238.8 yards per game.

Vick has returned and not only can he still run, he’s become a much better passer, and throwing the long ball to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin only helps his case.

Philadelphia wins.

Bye week: Green Bay, Oakland, New Orleans, San Diego

Last week: 9-4

Season: 79-51

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