Saturday, December 24, 2011

NFL Week 16 Picks: Philadelphia Eagles Stay in Playoff Hunt with Win Over the Dallas Cowboys

With Christmas Day on a Sunday this year most NFL games will take place on Christmas Eve. To prepare for the holidays there are some juicy showdowns with lots of playoff implications, specifically the Eagles against the Cowboys and the intra-city match-up featuring the Jets and Giants.

Who do you think will win?

I incorrectly picked Houston to beat the Colts on Twitter on Thursday.

Oakland over KANSAS CITY

TENNESSEE over Jacksonville

NEW ENGLAND over Miami

CINCINNATI over Arizona

Denver over BUFFALO

PITTSBURGH over St. Louis

New York Giants over NEW YORK JETS

Minnesota over WASHINGTON

Tampa Bay over CAROLINA

BALTIMORE over Cleveland

DETROIT over San Diego

Philadelphia over DALLAS

SEATTLE over San Francisco

GREEN BAY over Chicago

NEW ORLEANS over Atlanta

This Week: 0-1

Last Week: 10-6

Overall: 144-84

Photo Credits.
LeSean McCoy: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Saturday, December 17, 2011

NFL Week 15 Picks: New England Patriots Will Stop Tim Tebow's Roll

I picked the Falcons and Cowboys to win on Twitter

HOUSTON over Carolina

NEW YORK GIANTS over Washington

Miami over BUFFALO

Seattle over CHICAGO

New Orleans over MINNESOTA

Cincinnati over ST. LOUIS

Tennessee over INDIANAPOLIS

Green Bay over KANSAS CITY

OAKLAND over Detroit

New England over DENVER

New York Jets over PHILADELPHIA

ARIZONA over Cleveland

SAN DIEGO over Baltimore

SAN FRANCISCO over Pittsburgh

This week: 2-0

Last Week: 12-4

Season: 134-78

Photo Credits.
Tom Brady: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The New York Red Bulls Roster Continues to Be a Revolving Door

In 16 seasons the New York Red Bulls/MetroStars have had 12 different head coaches and seven different general managers or sporting directors. Close to 300 players have suited up for the team since its inception.

Year after year there is constant turnover: coaching changes, management changes, roster overhauls. Yet the team has never found the right mix therefore has never won a trophy of any kind, whether that be the MLS Cup, Supporter’s Shield or U.S. Open Cup.

After the 2011 season, which can only be described as a failure due to high expectations coming into the year, the house cleaning begins again.

We know that Sporting Director Erik Soler will return in 2012 along with head coach Hans Backe. The team has decimated its roster however. Alex Horwath, Mike Jones, Tyler Lassiter, Marcos Paullo, John Rooney and Teddy Schneider were all waived. Carlos Mendes (the longest tenured player on the roster and lone MetroStar remaining), Bouna Coundoul and Chris Albright did not have their options picked up and Stephane Auvray was released. Greg Sutton, in a complicated loan move with expansion squad Montreal Impact, will also not be back this year.

None of those players were starters. A number of them hardly ever even made the bench. And that’s still with the situations of Frank Rost and Brian Nielsen still up in the air.

Some may say there’s nothing wrong with getting rid of dead weight especially when the team failed to meet expectations but there is a bigger issue at hand with the roster.

If you look at the list of guys let go five players that were rookies last season were let go and another two players were in their first year with the team. Auvray didn’t even have a full season; he was acquired in a trade in August.

The organization is not developing young players or team chemistry.

In professional sports unless you are the New York Yankees or Manchester United you can’t just pay for new players every year. You need to develop young talent. It’s a cost-effective way to become help become successful.

In team sports chemistry is important. Guys need time to gel and learn each other’s tendencies. You also have to want to play and sacrifice not only for yourself but for the guy next to you as well. The more you’re willing to do and sacrifice, the better the outcome can be. And many times it takes some sort of relationship to develop over time for players to put that kind of trust into each other.

Also, players need to feel confident and think they have some sort of security on the team. It’s difficult to play your best when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder after every play wondering if you’re going to get yanked. It’s tough to feel settled and at ease when game-by-game you don’t know if you’ll be returning to the team the next day (Remember how Dwayne De Rosario was acquired and sent packing in a matter of months during the season?)

Alas, the New York Red Bulls management ignores all these things. Players are pieces of Monopoly property that get traded and sold at will.

It’s one thing if a team clears its roster to put forth a new foundation that will build the team for the next few years. But that becomes a moot point when the team is brand new year-in and year-out. If you don’t bring in quality players to replace the released ones, then what was the point of the roster overhaul to begin with? And if guys can’t last a year with the same team (not counting for loans) why did you go out and get them in the first place?

Maybe the team should do something new. Instead of having a quick trigger finger and getting rid of players after a few months on the roster management should re-evaluate its scouts. Somebody is not doing their job in the ranks. The team is obviously collecting sub-par talent that is not good enough to meet the expectations set. Who is advising ownership to get these players?

Why is it, for every Joel Lindpere unearthered there’s a list of at least ten guys like Juan Pietravallo, Jorge Rojas, Leo Krupnick, Walter Garcia, Matthew Mbuta, Ryan Suarez, Markus Schopp, Gilmar, Daniel Garipe and Gabriel Cichero?

There is a saying muttered by the New York Red Bulls supporters after most games or seasons or transactions and it’s, “Same old Metro.”

No matter how much the team changes, at its core nothing really changes at all.

Photo Credits.
Stephane Auvray: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gregg Berhalter is First American to Coach Professional Soccer in Europe

After decades of American soccer players failing to catch on to clubs in Europe, America’s brightest young players are finally getting the chance.

In the 1990’s many of the U.S. national team players were college players or guys that were signed full-time to be with the national team. Very few exceptions played in Europe.

But now, guys like Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Steve Cherundolo, Michael Bradley and Carlos Bocanegra are fixtures on some teams in the most elite leagues on the continent. Youngsters like Brek Shea, Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo are knocking on the door, all training with teams in the English Premier League.

Playing in Europe is no longer an improbable dream but a realistic possibility. So naturally, it’s time to start venturing to the next frontier: coaching in Europe.

Gregg Berhalter, a former USMNT defender, has been hired by Hammarby IF of Sweden’s Superettan (second division) to be its new head coach. Berhalter signed a two-year deal with an option for a third. He is the first American-born former national team player to coach a team in Europe.

Hammarby, the former club of Charlie Davies, is not top-flight European soccer but it’s a start, and a necessary one at that. They do, however, have the third highest attendance in all of Sweden.

Former USMNT player and National Soccer Hall of fame inductee Marcelo Balboa commented on how Americans coaching in Europe could help develop the game in the U.S. in an interview with Potomac Soccer Wire in October of 2010.

“We challenged our players many years ago to play at the highest level, to go overseas and make their craft,” Balboa said. “I think now we’re at a point where that same challenge needs to be put out to our coaches. Our coaches now need to expand their horizons out of MLS and look for that European job or that South American job, to get that kind of experience and bring that back to the United States.

“Our players have a little more experience than our coaches do. It’s time that our coaches start getting that experience overseas.”

Berhalter is a surprising candidate to be one of the first guys to make the jump.
He spent the first 15 years of his professional career in Europe, playing in the lower leagues in the Netherlands, Germany and England. Those experiences certainly helped shape his game and earn two trips to the World Cup, which must give him some clout in Europe.

The surprise is that Berhalter just retired from playing at the end of the 2011 MLS season, where he held the duel responsibility of player and assistant coach.

A European club is giving a young (Berhalter is 38-years-old) American with very little coaching experience a chance to lead their team in an attempt to get back to first-division soccer for the first time since 2009.

“[Hammarby] looked at where I’ve been the last couple years with the Galaxy and with Bruce Arena and my role there and then they looked at my background as a player,” Berhalter told ExtraTime Radio. “I obviously spent 15 years in Europe and they felt like that diversity in terms of being in three different countries and experiencing these different soccer cultures will be a real plus in the long run.”

Even more surprising is that initially the team was looking for an experienced manager who had previous ties to Hammarby, according to Berhalter on ExtraTime Radio.

Former USMNT player and current AZ Alkmaar (Jozy Altidore’s team) technical director Earnie Stewart thought this moment was still a long-time coming, commenting on the situation in an interview with in 2010.

“First of all, there's a problem in the way football in the United States is looked upon, and that reflects upon the coaches,” he explained. “We're still making progress, still getting better, still getting to where we want to be.”

Stewart added that any coach that does get an opportunity would have to have some kind of connection in Europe to help get that job.

Berhalter’s connection was former L.A. Galaxy midfielder Chris Klein, who sits on the board of Hammarby as an AEG representative and assisted with the coaching search. AEG owns the Los Angeles Galaxy and holds a 49-percent share of Hammarby.

For those that are surprised that Berhalter would be the first American to coach in Europe, ahead of famous national team coaches Bruce Arena or Bob Bradley or player-turned-coach Jason Kreis, Tab Ramos or Claudio Reyna keep in mind that John Harkes was the first American to play in the English Premier League. He did not have any professional experience before moving to Sheffield Wednesday, but his career turned out just fine.

It’s an historic moment for U.S. soccer and Berhalter has a rather large challenge ahead of him. But it’s a challenge that Berhalter, and American soccer, need to be ready to face.

Video feautre about the career path of Gregg Berhalter. Video from YouTube.

Photo Credits.
Gregg Berhalter: AP Photo/Gus Ruelas

Sunday, December 11, 2011

NFL Week 14 Picks: Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants Meet in Huge Sunday Night Matchup

We’re headed down the stretch, with the start of the final quarter of the season beginning in Week 14. The games, for some, are as important as ever as teams are jockeying for playoff position.

The biggest game of the week takes place in Dallas in prime time as the first place Cowboys take on the second-place rival Giants (one game behind) for the first time this season. It could be a shootout, as both teams have done well throwing the ball this season.

Who do you think will win?

Pittsburgh over Cleveland – I picked the Steelers to win on Thursday.

NEW YORK JETS over Kansas City – The Jets have struggled on offense and have gotten away from running the ball, once a specialty. Last week though they did run for 101 yards and three touchdowns. They should be able to do some more damage on the ground against the Chiefs, who are 25 th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (130.3).

JACKSONVILLE over Tampa Bay – The Buccaneers have lost six in a row. The Jaguars are no world beaters, but at home against a Bucs team that gets worse every week and this could finally be Jacksonville’s day. Maurice Jones-Drew has done his part this year, leading the league in rushing yards. Against the 29th ranked rush defense he should be rewarded for his efforts with a win for the fourth time this season.

New England over WASHINGTON – Andre Carter returns to Washington, where he spent five seasons with the Redskins. While the Patriots pass defense has been lackluster, Carter has been a bright spot in the pass rush. He leads the team with nine tackles (top-10 in the league) and people within the organization have raved about his professionalism. It looks like a prime opportunity for him to reach double digits in sacks this game as Washington is in the top-10 in sacks allowed (33).

Atlanta over CAROLINA – While Cam Newton has struggled with his decision making as a passer, he’s been a sensational runner. He has rushed for 13 touchdowns this season, a record for quarterbacks. The Falcons rush defense, however, is one of the best in the league (third in rushing yards allowed per game actually). And the last time these two teams played the Falcons forced Newton into some really bad throws, causing three interceptions. They should be able to dominate the Panthers again.

BALTIMORE over Indianapolis – The Colts put up some fight against the Patriots backups, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough. The Ravens tend to play down to their competition, but they’d really have to let themselves go to drop this game.

MIAMI over Philadelphia – Two teams here are going in opposite directions and surprisingly it’s the Dolphins who are on the up-swing. The ‘Phins are fifth in the league in points allowed and fifth in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. They’ll face a stiff test from LeSean McCoy and the return of Michael Vick, but the Dolphins have won three in a row at home and are just playing much better football.

DETROIT over Minnesota – Time for the early season darlings to get back to playing football. Discipline has been a huge problem for this team but coach Jim Schwartz has reportedly told players that they will sit for post-whistle fouls. Ndamukong Suh is still suspended and he is the biggest culprit, so maybe the rest of the team will learn its lesson. It would be nice if the Lions, on offense, could get to Calvin Johnson more. The wide receiver hasn’t had a 100-yard game in four games (he had five in the first eight games of the season) and only has one touchdown in that span. Fortunately for the Lions the Vikings look like everybody’s whipping boy right now.

New Orleans over TENNESSEE – The Saints have won four straight and five of their last six. Drew Brees hasn’t thrown an interception in three consecutive games and has a streak of 39 straight games with a passing score. The Titans struggle against teams with winning records and their pass defense has taken a step back this year compared to previous seasons.

CINCINNATI over Houston – T.J. Yates had a respectable game against Falcons last week, but now loses his No.1 target, Andre Johnson. Johnson will miss his seventh game of the season with a strained left hamstring. The Texans have a good running game too, but the Bengals have a top ten defense against the pass and the rush. There’re only so many injuries one team can endure.

DENVER over Chicago – Should I praise Tim Tebow and his 6-1 record as a starter this season (five wins in a row)? Or should I show concern for the Bears’ offense without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte? And then add the fact that Caleb Hanie has thrown two touchdowns compared to six interceptions in the past two games?

San Francisco over ARIZONA – The 49ers have allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in the entire league and they have not given up a rushing touchdown all season. They are looking to wrap up the No. 2 seed and a first round bye in the playoffs so a win against a conference (and divisional) opponent is big. The 49ers are 3-0 against the NFC West this season and beat the Cardinals 23-7 just three weeks ago.

SAN DIEGO over Buffalo – The Bills have lost five straight games and six of their previous seven. On the road this season the Bills are an abysmal 1-5. The Chargers had a similar losing streak recently (six straight) but broke that last week with a big Monday night victory against the Jaguars. The Bills are more talented than Jacksonville, but their defense is in the bottom half of the league in both passing and rushing yards allowed per game. Philip Rivers came back to life last weekend, throwing for just under 300 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. It was the second week in a row Rivers hadn’t thrown a pick and more games like that will help the Chargers win more games down the stretch.

GREEN BAY over Oakland – It was a close one last weekend, but the Packers prevailed and many think they have cleared the biggest obstacle remaining in finishing the regular season undefeated. It could be difficult for the Raiders to keep pace with the high octane Green Bay passing game because two of their top four leading receivers (and two of the top three wide receivers) are out with injuries.

DALLAS over New York Giants – The Giants secondary has struggled terribly the past couple games and things could get worse: safety Kenny Phillips will miss the game with a knee injury. Also out is Osi Umenyiora, which hurts the pass rush as well. The Cowboys have the seventh best passing game in the league and Miles Austin is expected to return after missing the past four games.

SEATTLE over St. Louis –Marshawn Lynch has really come on strong towards the end of the season. In his first eight games Lynch had 398 yards on 97 carries (4.1 yards per carry) with four touchdowns. In the last four games he has increased his production, rushing for 456 yards on 105 carries also with four touchdowns. In those games the Seahawks are 3-1. They are letting Lynch win games for them and he is in full-on “Beast Mode”.

This Week: 1-0

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 120-74

Photo Credits.
Tony Romo: AP Photo/Paul Connors

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Charlotte Hounds Making an Immediate Presence in Major League Lacrosse

The Charlotte Hounds are entering Major League Lacrosse with a bang.

In putting its inaugural roster together the expansion club is sparing no expense at making a splash. Management has been aggressive in putting together an offensive minded roster with plenty of big-time names.

The biggest move the team made was during the expansion draft, when they traded with the Long Island Lizards for perennial MVP candidate Matt Danowski.

“We decided to make a move that would provide us with MLL-ready players for training camp at the start of the season,” Hounds Director of Sales and Marketing Wade Leaphart said in an interview with MLL.

Danowski, a four-time All-American at nearby Duke University (where his dad also coaches), comes back to the state of North Carolina with an impressive professional career resume. He was an All-Star his first season in the league (2008) and has been every year since.

Last season Danowski finished fourth in the league in points, first in two-point goals and tied for second in game-winning goals continuing to show every week how dangerous he is on offense. He had at least two points every game. Danowski is also a starting attackman for the U.S. national team.

Charlotte scored big time in getting Danowski. The team acquires a player that is extremely talented, has a high profile and can bring in fans (he’s the star of Warrior’s “Manchine” commercials) and is a guy with local ties that will help with community relations. He’s also only 26-years-old so he can be the cornerstone of the franchise for a number of years to come.

The Hounds didn’t stop with Danowski though. In the deal to bring the attackman to Charlotte the team also received All-Star midfielder Stephen Berger. Berger has been a staple in the Lizards midfield since 2005 and was in the top-15 in points last season.

Another name joining the former Lizards is attcakman Billy Bitter, traded to the team from the Denver Outlaws. Bitter is another collegiate star from the state of North Carolina as an alumnus of the Tar Heels. He scored 12 goals in his rookie season to go along with four assists in only nine games.

“I’ve basically been down in North Carolina the past five years. I’ve grown to love the state a lot,” Bitter told MLL. “I have a lot of close people down here so I’m real excited…to be part of this organization.”

Rounding out a pretty talented and deep attack is 2011 MLL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Boltus. He was selected away from the Hamilton Nationals with Charlotte’s first selection in the Expansion Draft. Boltus scored 19 goals in 12 games last season and had a total of 30 points.

As the roster continues to fill out there is plenty here for Charlotte lacrosse fans to be optimistic about.

Much like the team has been aggressive in acquiring talent they have the makings of a dynamic offense that should not only be entertaining to watch but that could help make the Hounds a very competitive team, even as an expansion club.

Photo Credits.
Matt Danowski (top): Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Billy Bitter (right): Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trading for "Big Baby" is Only the Start of a Turbulent Season for the Orlando Magic

On the first day that NBA teams could start training camp and make roster moves the Orlando Magic have been one of the most active teams out there. Active, however, doesn’t mean that they improved.

The team used it’s amnesty clause on Gilbert Arenas and waived him, signed free agents Larry Hughes and Gabe Pruitt and—the big move of the day—swapped Brandon Bass for Glen “Big Baby” Davis in a deal with the Celtics. There’s also the Dwight Howard trade and tampering rumors, making the Magic one of the more talked about teams in the NBA right now.

Most of the moves don’t actually improve the team though, which could mean this is only the beginning of a very tumultuous season.

Waiving Agent Zero was expected and smart. Through the amnesty clause, the remaining three years and $62 million of Arenas’ six-year $111 million deal will no longer count towards Orlando’s salary cap. Arenas didn’t produce much coming off the bench for Orlando and was not worth keeping around especially at that price.

With some cap wiggle room made available it was possible the Magic could’ve added some guys to improve the roster and possibly influence Howard to stay after this season. Going after Shane Battier—a good perimeter defender with a strong basketball IQ and that can knock down the open shot—was a promising sign, even if he did wind up signing with the Miami Heat.

Instead the Magic conducted a sign-and-trade for Davis.

When you think of Davis what comes to mind is his goofy “Shrek and Donkey” partnership with Nate Robinson, his game-winning shot against the Magic in the 2009 NBA playoffs when he ran down the sidelines and knocked over a little kid and him crying at the end of the bench after Kevin Garnett got in his face. His nickname is “Big Baby” for crying out loud. He also seems to be out of shape.

There is no sense that Davis is a mature player and his numbers don’t make him a guy you have to have on your team. Last year Davis averaged 11.7 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, 0.4 blocks per game and shot 45-percent from the field.

You know who put up similar, if not better, numbers? Brandon Bass. He averaged 11.2 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game, 0.7 blocks per game and shot 52-percent from the field, all in fewer minutes per game. Bass is a tougher player and is a much better free-throw shooter.

Where is the improvement?

Throw in Hughes, 32, who didn’t play last year and has seen his points per game average on the steady decline since a career-high 22.0 points per game in the 2004-05 season, and Pruitt, who hasn’t played in two years and never averaged more than eight minutes a game in his two seasons of work, and the moves are all questionable.

This is the first day of the new season, the first day since the lockout that moves can be made. The team swapped a tough power forward for one with a baby moniker, signed two players who haven’t played in the league in at least a year and are on the verge of trading away or losing one of the best players in franchise history.

Usually the start of the season is a day of renewed hope for all fans, where every team is equal and has a chance to win the championship. Yet already it seems like the Magic have set themselves up for a long, turbulent season.

Photo Credits.

Glen Davis: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NFL Week 14 Picks: Steelers Should Dominate the Browns on Thursday Night

Cleveland Browns (4-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3)

Although they are division rivals, this game has all the makings of a blowout.
The Steelers have won three in a row while the Browns have lost two in a row and five of their last six.

Cleveland, surprisingly, is first in the league in passing yards allowed, yielding only 173.3 yards per game. The Steelers don’t necessarily rely on the pass though. There are plenty of times Ben Roethlisberger’s numbers aren’t pretty but the team guts out a win. In fact, in the past two games Roethlisberger has failed to reach 200 passing yards and last week he recorded his lowest total of the season (176 yards) but the team had its biggest winning margin of the season.

It’s what Cleveland can’t do that will determine the outcome in this game.

The Browns are 30th in the NFL in yards gained (24th in passing yards per game and 30th in rushing yards per game) and 28th in points scored per game. They can’t move the ball or put it in the endzone and against the Steelers defense—first in total yards allowed and fourth in points per game allowed—things only get more difficult.

Viewers should expect to see a lot of Rashard Mendenhall as the Browns are 31st in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. They'll take advantage of a poor run defense and then just keep hitting them when they're up big to drain the clock.

Pittsburgh wins.

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 119-74

Photo Credits.

Rashard Mendenhall: AP Photo/Don Wright

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Twitter Report: Athletes Fawning Over Tim Tebow

Terrell Davis, former Denver Broncos player: @terrell_davis “I've seen this movie before. I won't ruin it for everyone, but it's starring Tim Tebow, so you know what happens.”

Eric LeGrand, former Rutgers football player: @bige52_RU “Always finding a way Tim Tebow and my broncos, tied for 1st place #leggo”

LeBron James, NBA, Miami Heat: @KingJames “He's done it again!! Congrats @TimTebow on the big W and now tied for 1st place in the division #allhedoiswin”

Tracy McGrady, NBA, Detroit Pistons: @TheReal_TMAC “winning > stats #tebow”

Marshon Brooks, NBA, New Jersey Nets: @Marshon2 “Tebow for president..” “Who buying me the tebow jersey for Xmas?”

Jonny Flynn, NBA, Houston Rockets: @J_Flynn “Tebow needs to replace the guy in the Dos Equis commercials”

Shane Battier, NBA, Memphis Grizzlies: @ShaneBattier “#TebowTime”

Jason Thompson, NBA, Sacramento Kings: @jtthekid “Tebow Bout to Get Another W...”

Abby Wambach, soccer, U.S. Women's National Team: @AbbyWambach “@TimTebow just HAS IT!!! Brings back what's good about sports and no one can debate the wins... Keep doing what u do. #inspired”

Christie Rampone, soccer, U.S. Women's National Team: @christierampone “Another victory for @TimTebow! #FRS”

Sacha Kljestan, soccer, U.S. Men's National Team: @SachaKljestan “I don't care what all these haters say, Tim Tebow is a winner.”

Dax McCarty, MLS, New York Red Bulls: @DaxMcCarty11 “Tim Tebow will never lose another football game in his life.”

Alexi Lalas, former U.S. Men's National Team soccer player: @alexilalas22 “I'm up to speed on Tim Tebow, so now I'm gonna watch him. He just threw a TD. I'm supposed to credit the Broncos defense, right?”

Photo Credits.
Tim Tebow: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

NFL Week 13 Picks: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers Will Put Up Big Numbers Against the Giants

Philadelphia over SEATTLE – I incorrectly picked the Eagles on Twitter on Thursday.

TAMPA BAY over Carolina – There was a time earlier in the season when the Buccaneers were a contender for a playoff spot. They’ve lost five in a row and that ship has since sailed. They are 2-1 in the division however, beating both New Orleans and Atlanta. Josh Freeman is inactive but the Bucs are high on Josh Johnson.

PITTSBURGH over Cincinnati—The Bengals have been a pleasant surprise this year and it seems like there is a good foundation for the future. The Steelers are arguably the best team in the AFC, however, and just beat the Bengals by a touchdown in Cincinnati. Heinz Field is a difficult place for away teams to play in so it looks like Pittsburgh has the upper hand here.

Atlanta over HOUSTON – Houston is down to its third quarterback this season, and while their running game is the third best in the league, the Falcons are second-best in rushing yards allowed per game (83.5). The Falcons will key on stopping Arian Foster and co. and force T.J. Yates to beat them, which I don’t see happening.

New York Jets over WASHINGTON –The Jets are 1-4 on the road this year and 1-8 against the Redskins in their previous nine meetings. Still, this Redskins team struggles at almost every facet of the game except for the pass defense and doesn’t have the same talent on the field as the Jets do. It hasn’t been pretty this year, but it’s not time to count out the Jets yet.

NEW ENGLAND over Indianapolis – Bill Belichick has gone about this game the predictable, yet proper way. He has said in the media that this has been a great rivalry over the years against a team that has given them fits and that he expects them to do the same here. I do not coach the Patriots, I am not worried about getting the Patriots overconfident or giving the Colts locker room material so I can say I fully expect the Patriots to dominate in this game.

Oakland over MIAMI – Even without Darren McFadden the Raiders are still getting it done on the ground. Michael Bush has 335 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the previous three games, which all were wins. The Dolphins had a nice little run, but Oakland is playing to win its division.

Denver over MINNESOTA – Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos are rolling, winning four straight. Adrian Peterson is out and the Vikings have lost three straight. Go with the team on the upswing.

BUFFALO over Tennessee – The Bills looked better against the Jets than they had in recent weeks and Stevie Johnson was more productive against Darrelle Revis than he was against a number of other guys lately. At home they should be another average team in the Titans.

CHICAGO over Kansas City – Ridicule Jay Cutler all you’d like, but are you anywhere near as confident about the Bears success with Caleb Hanie at quarterback? You know who Hanie may just be better than, though? Tyler Palko.

Baltimore over CLEVELAND – Not a tough decision here. The Browns struggle to get anything going offensively and the Ravens still have a stingy defense.

Dallas over ARIZONA – The Cowboys are hot, winning four straight games, and had a few extra days to prepare for the Cardinals. The Cowboys rank in the top half of the league in passing yards per game, rushing yards per game, passing yards allowed per game and rushing yards allowed per game.

Green Bay over NEW YORK GIANTS – The Giants laid an egg last week against the Saints and it only gets tougher against the undefeated Packers. It looks like another late-season collapse is in store for Tom Coughlin and the Giants, as they have lost three consecutive games.

SAN FRANCISCO over St. Louis – The Thanksgiving day loss to the Ravens was a small setback for the 49ers. They are 9-2 and that is with playing only two games against NFC West rivals, whom are all under .500. San Francisco should be licking its chops to bounce back against the NFC West bottom feeders.

NEW ORLEANS over Detroit – The Saints demolished the vaunted Giants pass rush last week and should be happy to hear that Ndamukong Suh’s suspension appeal has been denied and he will have to sit out this one.

San Diego over JACKSONVILLE – Can things get any worse for the Chargers? They’ve lost six consecutive games and have dropped from first to worst in the AFC West standings. Jacksonville just fired its coach and the ownership sold the team though so the organization is in a state of flux. Can the Chargers finally capitalize on someone else’s misfortune?

This Week: 0-1

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 110-67

Photo Credits.
Aaron Rodgers: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio