Thursday, September 27, 2012

NFL Week 4 Picks: Dallas to Beat Bears on Monday Night Battle Fo Two-Win Teams

Real picks for games with real refs. How long until someone complains about a game changing call the regular refs make?

Cleveland (0-3) at Baltimore (2-1)

The Ravens pulled out a very tough and emotional win last Sunday night against a talented Patriots team.  And once again they look like a good, balanced team.

Joe Flacco is second in the league in passing yards and has only thrown two interceptions. Ray Rice is seventh in the league in rushing yards and tied for first in rushing touchdowns. The Ravens also have two receivers—Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones—tied for fourth in the league in catches for 20 or more yards.

The defense isn’t as stingy as it used to be but they are tied for second in the AFC in takeaways with six. Cleveland is first in the AFC in takeaways with seven but five of those came against the Eagles in Week 1 and the Browns still couldn’t win the game.

Baltimore wins.

Carolina (1-2) at Atlanta (3-0)

Some people are calling the Falcons the best team in the league right now. They beat the undefeated Chargers last week by 24 points and are tied with the Texans (another undefeated team) for the best point differential in the league (plus 46).

Matt Ryan has the best quarterback rating in the league. Meanwhile for the Panthers, Cam Newton has a quarterback rating nearly 36 points lower than Ryan’s (23rd in the league) and is tied for fourth in the league in interceptions thrown.

The Panthers couldn’t even challenge the injury depleted Giants at home, losing by 29 points.

Atlanta wins.

New England (1-2) at Buffalo (2-1)

The Bills are tied for first in the AFC East and it’s not with the Patriots.

The Bills two wins have come against teams that were—at least at the time—winless. The strength of those wins, and even in the Week 1 loss, was the running game. Fred Jackson was injured and is questionable this week. C.J. Spiller took his place and got hurt last week and is doubtful. Tashard Choice was next in line and had a productive day against the Browns.

The banged-up running backs will have a tough go of it against the Patriots, who are seventh in the league in rushing yards against.

You can also bet the Patriots will come out with some angst for not only losing their second consecutive game—which does not happen very often—but also for the manner in how they lost last week. Whether you agree with the calls and penalties or not, it was a physical game and the Patriots were visibly frustrated after it. So they’ll be looking to right the ship and very decisively as well.

New England wins.

Minnesota (2-1) at Detroit (1-2)

Had the Lions not botched a fourth-down play in overtime against the Titans and gone for the field goal it could be possible this game would be for first place.

Even without Matthew Stafford, should he not play, Shaun Hill can get the job done and he proved that last weekend. He has a career 62-percent completion percentage and 41 touchdowns compared to 23 interceptions and last week went 10-13 with two touchdowns.

The Vikings are surprisingly leading the division but are doing so behind an efficient passing game and statistically strong defense.

But at home, the Lions have won eight of their last 11 contests.

Detroit wins.

San Diego (2-1) at Kansas City (1-2)

The Chiefs finally broke into the win column, beating the winless Saints. Despite a rough start to the season the Chiefs have the most rushing yards per game in the league.

The Chargers, however, are fourth in the league in rushing yards against per game. The Chargers should see a boost of their own in their running game with Ryan Matthews playing in his second game back from injury. Last week Matthews carried the ball ten times for 4.4 yards per carry. Another week of practice should mean a bigger impact.

San Diego wins.

Seattle (2-1) at St. Louis (1-2)

The Rams did not get much from Sam Bradford and a banged up Steven Jackson last week. The offense gained a total of only 160 yards, went 3-13 on third downs, never got into the red zone and turned the ball over twice.

The Seahawks were gifted a win due to multiple poor calls on the last play of the game but their defense still had the potent Packers offense in check. The Seahawks rank tenth in the league in passing yards allowed per game and second in rushing yards allowed per game.

Seattle wins.

San Francisco (2-1) at New York Jets (2-1)

Part of how the Vikings were able to defeat the 49ers was the efficiency of quarterback Christian Ponder. The Jets do not pose that threat, with starting quarterback Mark Sanchez 32nd in the league in completion percentage at 50.5 percent.

The Jets very well could’ve lost last weekend against the Dolphins had it not been for Reggie Bush’s injury and two Dan Carpenter missed field goals. But now the Jets will have to go without Darrelle Revis who injured his ACL last week and is out for the year.

The 49ers still boast a very strong defense that should take advantage of the inconsistent play of Sanchez.

San Francisco wins.

Tennessee (1-2) at Houston (3-0)

The Titans finally got on the board last week, beating the Lions in overtime. Despite the team scoring 44 points, Chris Johnson still only managed 24 yards rushing on 14 carries and no scores.

Jake Locker had a good week last week, but if Johnson can’t get going against the Texans fifth-ranked run defense, then their fourth-ranked pass defense will be able to key on Locker and make it a long day for him.

The Texans are cruising right now, taking advantage of a favorable schedule, and this game should continue that trend.

Houston wins.

Cincinnati (2-1) at Jacksonville (1-2)

The Bengals have won both games by only a touchdown each, but they do have a winning record. The Jaguars have played two games against teams currently with winning records and both of those games were losses for the Jaguars.

Andrew Dalton is eighth in the league in passing yards and fourth in QB rating. They also have the 15th ranked rushing attack. And in rookie Mohammed Sanu’s passing skills out of the Wildcat, which he showcased last weekend throwing a 73-yard touchdown, and the Bengals just have more talent and different looks to offer the Jaguars then Jacksonville’s one-sided offense revolving around Maurice Jones-Drew does.

Cincinnati wins.

Miami (1-2) at Arizona (3-0)

The Cardinals defense has looked very strong in the first three games. Their passing defense ranks ninth in the NFL in yards allowed per game. And despite a 29th ranked passing offense, the team finally got Larry Fitzgerald involved, catching nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, his first of the season.

That pass defense should fair pretty well against a Dolphins offense that seems to be afraid to really attack through the air. The passing game looks conservative and the receivers aren’t making plays. The Dolphins looked good the first two and a half games thanks to Reggie Bush, but he was injured late in the first half of last week. He thinks he can play this weekend but even if he does it’ll be interesting to see how effective he isn’t when he isn’t at 100 percent.

Arizona wins.

Oakland (1-2) at Denver (1-2)

The Raiders may have gotten a win against the Steelers last week and the Broncos did lose, but fortunes can change for both teams this week.

Oakland statistically is better passing the ball. That could be because in their first two games they were behind big and needed to pass, but the stats are what they are. And the Raiders have yet to face a passing defense ranked higher than the one the Broncos have (15th in the league in passing yards allowed).

If Peyton Manning and Co. can jump on the Raiders early and can force them to pass the ball, they may be able to turn around their two game losing streak.

Denver wins.

New Orleans (0-3) at Green Bay (1-2)

Was Sean Payton this important to the Saints success? He’s partially responsible but the Saints still have a lot of talent on the field, including Drew Brees at quarterback. This just looks like a team completely beaten down by the offseason controversy.

Two of those three losses came at home too.

They could have trouble against a Packers team at home and very angry about how they lost last week.
The Packers rank first in the league in passing yards allowed per game. The Saints passing game is the only thing on offense or defense ranked inside the top 20 in the league which will further challenge them.

Green Bay wins.

Washington (1-2) at Tampa Bay (1-2)

RG3 hasn’t put up as big a game passing as he did in his debut and, although he’s still playing very well, it’s possible it may be hurting his team, who has lost two in a row.

Part of that could be due to Pierre Garcon missing both games due to injury. He is questionable for Sunday. The Redskins will also be without running back Roy Helu, who was placed on IR on Wednesday. Running back Evan Royster is also questionable.

The Buccaneers are playing their competition closely. They rank first in the league in rushing yards allowed per game, tied for tenth in sacks and tied for third in the NFC in turnover differential. What they need to do now is put points on the board. The Redskins are fourth in the league in most points allowed.

Tampa Bay wins.

New York Giants (2-1) at Philadelphia (2-1)

Michael Vick is tied for the league lead in interceptions thrown and he’s seventh in the league in times sacked, though he’s been hit even more. The team also leads the league in total turnovers. The offensive line just cannot protect him.

So how will he fare against a team notorious for its pass rush, led by Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora?

While the offensive line tries to figure out how to stop the Giants defensive line, the Eagles secondary will have to regroup from last week’s performance against the Cardinals. Kevin Kolb, who started the season as the backup, beat the Eagles for 222 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Giants and Eli Manning boast the second best passing attack in the league, so it will be an even bigger challenge and struggle for the Philadelphia secondary.

New York Giants win.

Chicago (2-1) at Dallas (2-1)

Both teams’ defenses have played pretty well in the early going.

Dallas has scored the fewest points per game in the league. The Bears have caused more turnovers than the Cowboys. The Bears have also just edged out the Cowboys in points allowed.

That being said, the Bears have lost six of their past nine games on the road. They also crashed and burned in their previous prime time game, while the Cowboys flourished on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions to start the season in prime time.

The Cowboys haven’t played any pretty games, but they are capable of grinding out wins.

Dallas wins.

Bye Week: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh

Last Week: 5-11

Season: 23-25
 Photo Credit.
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Monday, September 24, 2012

Miami Dolphins Wide Receivers Continue to Hurt the Team

It’s no secret: the Miami Dolphins need a good wide receiver. More than one would be nice, but right now the team should be happy if they could get one.

The observation is nothing new. It has been talked about since the team traded Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears in March. It was talked about when the team signed and then cut Chad Johnson.

Yet despite all the clamoring for a dependable receiver close to nothing has been done by Dolphins management and it hurt the team in Sunday’s 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Jets, a game Miami was winning at halftime and very well could have won on a couple of occasions.

Yes, Dan Carpenter missed two field goals that would have won the game. Yes, head coach Joe Philbin tried to ice the kicker when the defense blocked Nick Folk’s first attempt at the game-winning kick. Yes, Reggie Bush was injured and sat out the entire second half.

Had those things gone differently the Dolphins could have won Sunday’s game. But this issue isn’t about one victory; it’s about setting the team up for failure for at least the entire season.

The Dolphins are 24th in the NFL in receptions (54). They are last in the league in receiving touchdowns, the only team in the entire NFL with only a single touchdown reception. The team has had eight different players catch passes but only three of them are wide receivers.

That touchdown reception was by tight end Anthony Fasano, a solid player that looks like he is becoming rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s safety blanket.

The players at the wide receiver position, for the most part, have done a poor job.

Brian Hartline is the team’s leading receiver with 13 receptions for 202 yards. He’s 30th in the league in reception yards. Hartline is good for one big play a game, but against the Jets that was it. He had one catch for 41 yards against the Jets despite being targeted nine times.

Hartline’s tendency to disappear should come as no surprise to Dolphin fans. Last season, in his final 10 games he recorded one or no catches six times.

When rosters were cut to 53 right before the season the Dolphins “big” move at improving the position was by signing Anthony Armstrong, who was cut by the Washington Redskins. For the Dolphins, Armstrong has three receptions in two games for a grand total of 12 yards.

Against the Jets, Armstrong had two catches for nine yards. He was targeted six times. In the fourth quarter Armstrong allowed a pass to go right through his hands and hit him on a third down play that could’ve extended the team’s drive and help them preserve the victory.

Former Carolina Panthers receiver Legedu Naane—who had his best season of his five year career at that point—was signed in April. He had a very disappointing preseason, dropping a number of passes, and in three games has yet to catch a pass in 2012.

The only other receiver even worth mentioning at this point is Davone Bess. The former Hawaii receiver is in his fifth season in the NFL and is solid if not spectacular. He was the team’s leading receiver Sunday, hauling in five passes for 86 yards on seven targets. He is most dangerous as a slot receiver but is being counted on by the team to do too much because of lack of depth at the position.

Once Reggie Bush was injured in the second quarter the offense began to stall. Bush is not only a very good runner but he does a good job catching passes too and Tannehill and the Dolphins have relied heavily on him.
Without the Jets defense keying on Bush they were able to really shut down the Dolphins offense, especially their passing attack. In the second half Tannehill threw his only interception. The team still regained the lead but when the defense stopped the Jets offense and forced a punt the Dolphins failed to capitalize.

The Dolphins had four possessions in the final quarter. On two of those the team went three-and-out, gaining a total of two yards on back-to-back possessions. They gave the ball back to the Jets and allowed them to take the lead.

If the Dolphins are going to be competitive and if the team is going to let Tannehill start and develop then the wide receiver position desperately needs to be improved. The guys the team signed and put their faith in this year—especially Armstrong and Naanee—are not even close to getting the job done.

Photo Credit.
AP Photo/Rhona Wise

Sunday, September 23, 2012

NFL Week 3 Picks: Patriots to Hand Ravens Second Loss in a Row

Two weeks into the new season and there are already quite a few surprises.

Did anyone think the Saints would be 0-2?

How did the Cardinals beat the Patriots in Foxborough?

How are the Eagles 2-0 despite a myriad of turnovers?

In Week 3 there are a plenty of good matchups and we should see the true colors of some teams like the Dolphins, the Jets, the Seahawks and the Saints.

Who do you think will win?

New York Giants (2-1) at Carolina (1-2)

On Twitter Thursday I picked the Panthers to win.

St. Louis (1-1) at Chicago (1-1)

Steven Jackson is questionable meaning either a less-than-100-percent Jackson or his untested backup Daryl Richardson will be forced to go up against the Bears ninth ranked run defense.

A lot has been said about Jay Cutler and his emotions last week, chastising his offensive line during their loss to the Packers but he tends to come back from criticism well.

Even with Matt Forte due to miss the game for the Bears, Michael Bush has proven before that he is more than capable to fill in for an injured starter.

Chicago wins.

Buffalo (1-1) at Cleveland (0-2)

After a Week 1 shellacking the Bills took advantage of what looks like a lackluster Chiefs team. That play should continue against the Browns, who are 0-2 and struggle on offense.

The Bills will continue to ride the C.J. Spiller Express, as he is first in the league in rushing yards. The Browns are 18th in the league in rushing defense and will struggle to contain Spiller.

Buffalo wins.

Tampa Bay (1-1) at Dallas (1-1)

Dallas may have lost last week but they still have the sixth ranked passing offense behind Tony Romo.

He should have some luck against the Buccaneers, who rank last in the league in pass defense. That total is largely because of Eli Manning’s performance on them last weekend, but the Cowboys corners were able to at least contain Manning in Week 1.

Tampa Bay is also coming off a huge letdown giving up a big lead to the Giants.

Dallas wins.

Detroit (1-1) at Tennessee (0-2)

The Titans have lost their first two games by an average of 24.5 points.

Chris Johnson is also having an abysmal season. He has 21 yards on 19 carries in two games. He’s second on the team in rushing behind quarterback Jake Locker, who has four carries for 32 yards.

Against a Lions team with an aggressive defense and very good passing offense, the Titans will have difficulty both moving the ball and keeping pace with Detroit.

Detroit wins.

Jacksonville (0-2) at Indianapolis (1-1)

In his first home game Andrew Luck gave the Indianapolis crowd something to cheer for. He had a 64.5 completion percentage, 224 yards, two touchdowns and zero turnovers to go along with the win.

In his second start at home against the hapless Jaguars. Jacksonville hasn’t done too well in anything, currently sitting 31st in passing yards, 24th in rushing yards and 31st in rush defense.

Indianapolis wins.

New York Jets (1-1) at Miami (1-1)

The Dolphins have won two of their past three home games against the Jets. Miami has also won five of its past six home games.

As quarterback of the Jets, Mark Sanchez is 2-4 against Miami and has thrown four interceptions.

Reggie Bush is the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Week with 26 carries for 172 yards and two touchdowns. He'll look to put an encore performance against the 22nd ranked rush defense in 2012 thus far.

Miami wins.

San Francisco (2-0) at Minnesota (1-1)

The 49ers have started the season on a tear. The defense looks like the strongest in the league and Alex Smith has yet to throw an interception.

The Vikings haven't fared too well against teams that seem to be playing at a similar level to them so it's hard to imagine them putting up a fight against a stronger squad.

San Francisco.

Kansas City (0-2) at New Orleans (0-2)

The Saints haven't won a game yet but the Chiefs do look even worse.

The Saints have kept their games relatively close while the Chiefs have lost their two games by an average of 17 points.

New Orleans wins.

Cincinnati (1-1) at Washington (1-1)

The Bengals may have won last weekend and BenJarvus Green-Ellis is 13th in the league in rushing yards. The Bengals have been underwhelming though and that’s largely because of a porous defense.

Cincinnati is 29th against the pass and 19th against the rush. Robert Griffin III can both run and pass the ball. Last week he accounted for three of Washington’s four touchdowns.

Much like Andrew Luck for the Colts last week we can expect RG3 to send the Redskins fans into a frenzy.

Washington wins.

Philadelphia (2-0) at Arizona (2-0)

It's surprising how both these teams are 2-0 right now but that's where we currently stand.

Kevin Kolb gets to go up against his former team and show his worth.

Michael Vick looked better last week compared to his Week 1 performance. And although the Eagles committed four turnovers last week they still put up 500 yards of offense.

A high powered offense coupled with a much improved defense the Eagles should figure things out.

Philadelphia wins.

Atlanta (2-0) at San Diego (2-0)

Of all the talk of top quarterbacks in the league, how often is Matt Ryan mentioned?

He should be. He’s completed 70.1 percent of his passes this season, is tied for first in the league in touchdowns and is also No. 1 in quarterback rating. He also hasn’t thrown an interception.

He’s playing well and has a lot of talented receivers to compliment him.

Atlanta looks like they are living up to the Super Bowl contending expectations set up for them last season.

Atlanta wins.

Houston (2-0) at Denver (1-1)

The Texans are another team rolling right now. Their defense is No. 1 in passing yards allowed and eighth in rushing yards. Arian Foster and Ben Tate have combined for the sixth ranked rushing attack.

They’ll face a tough test against the Broncos in Denver, but Peyton Manning and Co. are realizing that No. 18’s return to the league won’t be as easy as they thought possible after Week 1. Three interceptions in the first quarter will do that to you.

Houston wins.

Pittsburgh(1-1)  at Oakland (0-2)
Was there anything positive to take away from the Raiders game last weekend? They lost by 17 points, Darren McFadden ran for only 22 yards and allowed a total of 452 yards to the Dolphins, who looked offensively challenged in the preseason.

Meanwhile Pittsburgh, even without Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, held the Jets to 10 points and 219 total yards in their 27-10 victory.

The Steelers may not look pretty but over the years they just continue to get the job done.

Pittsburgh wins.

New England (1-1) at Baltimore (1-1)

The Patriots did not play well enough to deserve to win last weekend. The Ravens, however, have a legitimate gripe about a questionable offensive pass interference call against the Eagles that brought back a touchdown.

The Patriots will be without tight end Aaron Hernandez, but the Ravens haven’t been able to get their wide receivers involved much. The Patriots boast the seventh best passing defense and fifth best rushing defense. Keeping the pass attack the defense should be able to focus their efforts on stopping Ray Rice.

Although the Patriots lost last weekend at home, one made field goal at the game would’ve done the trick for a victory, much like the AFC Championship Game last season. And for all the talk of the lack of playing time Wes Welker has received he was the team’s leading receiver last weekend and should continue to get more involved.

New England wins.

Green Bay (1-1) at Seattle (1-1)

The Packers haven’t been as sharp in the passing game as the past few years and the lack of Greg Jennings’ impact has hurt them. But Aaron Rodgers is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

Does Seattle, who ranks last in the league in passing yards per game really have enough offensive firepower to match the Packers?

Seattle’s defense has been pretty stifling the first couple of weeks, but the Packers defense was also dominant last weekend against the Bears.

While the game will be played in Seattle, there is something to be said about Green Bay’s experience in prime time games and games played on big stages such as Monday Night Football. Since 2009 the Packers are 9-3 in prime time games.

The experienced Packers defense will be aggressive in their pursuit of Russell Wilson and although the rookie quarterback has many endearing traits that have fans rooting for him to succeed, his inexperience and lack of overall talent on the team could prove to be a hindrance in this matchup.

Green Bay wins.

This Week: 0-1

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 18-14

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Philadelphia Phillies Keep Fighting in Win over Mets and in Their Season

Wednesday night’s 3-2 win over the New York Mets was, for the Philadelphia Phillies, symbolic of the way the 2012 season has gone.

It’s been a long season for the Phillies and part of that reason has been a very quiet offense. The team is currently ninth in the National League in runs scored.

Even with strong pitching performances from their starters the bats have not held their end of the bargain, resulting in a season that saw the Phillies go 13 games under .500 at the All-Star break. For example, Cliff Lee is 22nd in all of Major League Baseball with a 3.27 ERA but he is 21 st on the list of worst run support in the league at 3.89 runs scored in support per game. He has only six wins on the season despite some brilliant pitching performances.

A lack of offense and run support was once again the case Wednesday night. Despite Cole Hamels  going six inning and allowing only two runs and the bullpen pitching another two scoreless innings the Phillies trailed going into the top of the ninth 2-1.

The offense had mustered up one run on two hits the entire first eight innings of the game. They forced only three walks. And that lone run? It came on the first at-bat of the game thanks to a Jimmy Rollins solo shot. It was a long night of dormancy, much like the majority of the season has been.

But the Phillies have come alive lately, going 12-5 in September, breaking .500 and clawing to within four games back of the second Wild Card spot.

They continued to fight Wednesday night.

Down to the team’s last out in the top of the ninth inning Chase Utley—who didn’t play his first game until June 27—drew a walk on an eight-pitch at-bat.

Then the struggling Ryan Howard—who didn’t play his first game until July 6 and is hitting a career-low .225—came to the plate. Howard slugged an 0-1 fastball into the upper deck, giving the Phillies a one-run lead, which they would hold on to for the victory.

Just when the Phillies were counted all but out of this game the team continued to fight and make plays to come from behind.

And that’s really what this season has been about. After all the injuries, after all the losses, after all the trades of big pieces of the lineup many people looked past the five-time defending NL East champions.

But here they are in September with a chance—albeit a long-shot—at making the post-season for a sixth consecutive season. Guys filled in for those injured, suspended or traded. They made plays. They just kept fighting.

That resiliency showed against the Mets Wednesday night and it’s the main reason why that win was more than just a feel-good game. That resiliency is why that win had playoff implications for the Phillies.

Photo Credit.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lacrosse Lounge Episode 15- David Gross

In episode 15 of Lacrosse Lounge MLL Commissioner David Gross comes on to talk about the state of the league: expansion, social media, technology advances, the caliber of the players and what still needs to be done to make playing in the league a full-time job.

"I want Major League Lacrosse to grow. I want it to be something that every player that's part of it is happy that they're involved. I want the fans to say, 'I can't wait for the games'. I want where those that are passionate about lacrosse say, 'I will schedule my time around my MLL team,' and not just, 'Oh, I'll go watch a game because it's convenient for me'. Those are the goals and ambitions. I truly believe in the product."

Episode 15 aired live on April 16, 2012.

Listen to internet radio with The Lacrosse Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

Sunday, September 16, 2012

NFL Week 2 Picks: Time for the Saints to Rebound

Don’t overreact.

Week 1 was the first real action of the 2012 season any of us saw, obviously. And while we can finally begin to really judge teams and players and get an idea of what trends to look out for it still is only one game.

Sometimes players are still shaking off the early season rust. Sometimes teams and schemes still need to gel. Other times teams could just get a bad draw.

That’s why some teams may have played poorly last weekend or not gotten the result they wanted but there’s still a possibility things can turn out much differently in Week 2, like they did for the Packers.

Chicago (1-0) at Green Bay (0-1)

On Twitter I picked the Packers to win.

Kansas City (0-1) at Buffalo (0-1)

Both teams got trounced in Week 1. This could be an ugly game of football.

But what we could see is two good running backs at work.

Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles had a nice little comeback last week, his first game since Week 2 last season due to injury. He ran for 87 yards on 16 carries, working his way back to prominence.

Even more impressive was the Bills’ C.J. Spiller. Coming on in relief of the injured Fred Jackson, Spiller rushed for a league-high 169 yards last week on only 14 carries to go along with a touchdown. It was truly a special performance, especially because everyone has been waiting for him to have a breakout game since being drafted out of Clemson in 2010.

Ryan Fitzpatrick desperately needs to cut down on his turnovers and Mario Williams needs to get past the offensive lineman covering him but at home with Spiller acting as a spark plug this could be the Bills’ day.

Buffalo wins.

Cleveland (0-1) at Cincinnati (0-1)

The Bengals had a rough outing against the Ravens but this Cleveland team is not nearly as talented.

The Browns defense got to Michael Vick often yet they still lost by a point.

Cincinnati's offensive line isn't as bad and BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a bright spot despite the blowout.

Cincinnati wins.

Minnesota (1-0) at Indianapolis (0-1)

The Vikings barely got past a lackluster Jaguars team at home. But they did win.

While the Colts were completely blown away by the Chicago Bears, it was the start of a new era with Andre Luck at quarterback.

Luck only completed 51.1 percent of his passes and threw three interceptions but he did throw for a touchdown and 309 yards. He got a real taste of what this league is like.

This is a winnable game for the Colts and at home the fans will be ready to get behind Luck.

Indianapolis wins.

New Orleans (0-1) at Carolina (0-1)

At home against the Redskins did anyone think Drew Brees and the Saints would go down like they did?

Time to bounce back against a division rival.

The Panthers managed a whopping 10 yards on the ground last week against the Buccaneers and that’s with Cam Newton, who is supposed to be one of the best, if not the best, running quarterbacks in the game. Newton also threw two interceptions.

The Saints need to get a lot more from their running game but Carolina still has a lot of pieces they need to put together in order to be a successful team.

New Orleans wins.

Houston (1-0) at Jacksonville (0-1)

Houston dismantled an overmatched Miami Dolphins team in Week 1. The Texans should have just as good a game against a possibly even weaker Jaguars team, even though they’re on the road.

Houston wins.

Oakland (0-1) at Miami (0-1)

The Raiders had the late Monday night game and will have to travel cross-country to play the Dolphins in the 1 p.m. game. That never bodes well.

The Dolphins looked bad last week and looks to be focusing on the future, but they are winners of six of their past seven games against Oakland and have home-field advantage.

Miami wins.

Arizona (1-0) at New England (1-0)

Coming off the bench last week Kevin Kolb went 6 for 8 for 66 yards and a touchdown in a four-point win for the Cardinals. Not too shabby.

But the Patriots looked too good last week and their defense looked much improved to go against them taking on what seems to be an inferior Arizona team.

New England wins.

Tampa Bay (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1)

Rookie head coach Greg Schiano takes his Buccaneers team to New Jersey, where he did a pretty good job as the head coach of Rutgers University. His team held on and put together a gutsy win against the Panthers in Week 1 thanks in part to a very stout rush defense.

The Giants did not play well at all against the Cowboys and their secondary continues to get thinner and thinner.

But Tampa Bay didn’t overpower the Panthers by throwing the ball, so it’s hard to imagine they’d be able to take full advantage of the Giants’ most glaring weakness. The Giants tend to fluctuate in consistency but after losing last week they could very well turn it on this week.

New York Giants win.

Baltimore (1-0) at Philadelphia (1-0)

The Ravens beat a 2011 playoff team by 31 points in Week 1. The Eagles beat the Cleveland Browns—a team that was 4-12 last year and starting rookies at quarterback and wide receiver in Week 1—by one point in a game that the offensive line was absolutely manhandled and Michael Vick threw four interceptions.

Yet the Eagles are favored in this game. Home-field advantage cannot be worth that much can it?

The Baltimore defense was very strong against Cincinnati and they should be able to take full advantage of an Eagles offense with a porous front-line, an injury-prone quarterback and its top two-wide receivers (DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin) already banged up with injuries.

Baltimore wins.

Washington (1-0) at St. Louis (0-1)

Robert Griffin III was the first player in NFL history to earn Player of the Week after his first NFL game. Everyone loves him. Seriously, have you heard anyone say anything negative about him?

The Rams didn't look too bad last week, but they lost and the Redskins mojo right now is the highest it's been in at least the past decade.

Washington wins.

Dallas (1-0) at Seattle (0-1)

When the Seahawks play at home they generally do pretty well. They always have a great crowd behind them.

In terms of play though, they did struggle against the Cardinals pass defense. They could struggle even more against a Cowboys pass defense that did pretty well against the Giants offense last week.

Tony Romo has long been on the cusp of good and great in the NFL. He will need to continue to put together similar performances throughout the season but he had as good a start as possible.

Dallas wins.

New York Jets (1-0) at Pittsburgh (0-1)

The defenses for both teams feature some big injuries. Darrelle Revis out for the Jets while James Harrison and Troy Polomalu could be out for the Steelers.

Despite different outcomes a week ago this game could be an ugly slugfest and at home, it's usually the type of game Ben Roethlisberger comes out on top in.

Pittsburgh wins.

Tennessee (0-1) at San Diego (1-0)

The Chargers did a poor job of getting their running game going last week against the Raiders, gaining only 32 yards on the ground.

Chris Johnson had an awful showing in Week 1 with 11 carries for only four yards Tennessee. But on the bright side the Titans do get Kenny Britt back this week after missing the first game due to a suspension in Week 1 and a season-ending injury last year.

The Chargers have always been a pass-first team, but with the addition of Britt Tennessee could do some damage this weekend. There’s also greater potential for Johnson to shake out of his funk as opposed to any of the Chargers’ backs.

Tennessee wins.

Detroit (1-0) at San Francisco (1-0)

The 49ers put together a very impressive performance beating the Packers on the road last weekend. The defense got the job done and the team's new stable of wide receivers came through for them.

The Lions barely slipped past the Rams and Matthew Stafford was not very sharp.

San Francisco wins.

Denver (1-0) at Atlanta (1-0)

Both teams put up impressive victories in Week 1.

What wasn't impressive was the Falcons running game. They ran for 84 yards total and Matt Ryan almost out ran starter Michael Turner.

Peyton Manning had a good first game back and history says he does very well in prime time.

Denver wins.

This Week: 1-0

Last Week: 9-7

Photo Credit.

AP Photo/Bill Haber

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

NFL Week 1 Picks: New York Giants Begin Title Defense

The beginning of the 2012 NFL season is upon us and the Giants will lead off the season with their title defense.

Dallas seems obsessed with all the attention the Giants are receiving this year, but do they have enough to take down the champs?

Who else will rise to the occasion in Week 1?

Dallas at New York Giants

It may not be a Thursday night game this year, but the defending champions have won eight consecutive season openers. The Giants  are also 7-2 against the Cowboys since January 2008. They also ended Dallas’ season in Week 17 last year.

They’re division rivals and both are starting at 0-0 but it’s tough to say the Giants don’t have the edge heading into the new season.

New York wins.

Indianapolis at Chicago

The Bears locked up Matt Forte to a four-year deal, traded for Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall and signed running back Michael Bush (977 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011). They also drafted wide receiver Alshon Jeffery from South Carolina, a tall prospect with very good hands that has played well in the pre-season.

The Bears may not have immediately improved their offensive line, but it should be enough against a rebuilding Colts team. Andrew Luck will have a tough task in his NFL regular season debut with Julius Peppers chasing him down.

Chicago wins.

Philadelphia at Cleveland

The Eagles weren’t the “Dream Team” Vince Young proclaimed them to be, failing to make the playoffs, but they should build off a strong second-half for a better 2012 season.

The Eagles won their final four games last season, and did so by an average of just under 20 points per game.

Their biggest weakness last season was their defense, specifically their tackling. Adding veteran DeMeco Ryans and rookies Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry should definitely help the team’s cause.

Cleveland has a rookie quarterback (Brandon  Weeden), a rookie running back (Trent Richardson) who had minor knee surgery just two weeks ago and no real playmakers at the wide receiver position.

Philadelphia wins.

New England at Tennessee

This is an intriguing game to open the season.

The Patriots are always one of the best teams in the league and they really strengthened their defense through the draft. But after roster cuts they are pretty thin at the wide receiver position.

The Titans start 2011 first round draft pick Jake Locker at quarterback and he’s got some fans excited. They will be without star wide receiver Kenny Britt due to a one-game suspension.

The Patriots, however, haven’t lost a season opener since 2003. The Titans could surprise some teams this year, but the Patriots are too experienced and the Titans don’t have the weapons to fully exploit New England’s weaknesses.

New England wins.

Atlanta at Kansas City

A lot of people picked the Falcons last year as a Super Bowl contender and they fell well short of those expectations. But 2012 is a new year. Members of the media are raving about how Julio Jones has looked in camp.

Kansas City gets Jamaal Charles back from an ACL injury and teaming him with new signing Peyton Hillis could make a pretty stout running attack.

But is Matt Cassel better than Matt Ryan? And can that Kansas City defensive line ever perform to the lofty expectations that was thrust upon the draft status of the player of the group suggests?

Atlanta wins.

Jacksonville at Minnesota

The Jaguars biggest threat, Maurice Jones-Drew, held out all of camp. Even if he is in shape, he hasn’t been hit yet and he hasn’t created much chemistry with the lineup.

The Vikings have an issue with their starting running back as well. Adrian Peterson is still recovering from an ACL injury and is a game-time decision right now. But Toby Gerhart isn’t a bad running-back by any means. Christian Ponder also showed some potential last season and could benefit from the experience a preseason as the starter can give him.

Minnesota wins.

Washington at New Orleans

The RG3 era begins in Washington and he’ll go up against none other than Drew Brees, one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.

While the Saints were the league’s top passing team did you know they also had a really good running attack? The Saints were number six in the league in rushing yards per game. They did so with a pretty balanced combination attack of Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory.

Washington meanwhile is without last season’s leading receiver Jabar Gaffney, who is no longer with the team. They do have Pierre Garcon now, who would’ve tied Gaffney for first on the team in receiving yards last season. He also had one more touchdown reception.

New Orleans had a rough off-season and will be under its, technically, third head coach this season. Still, they do have a more experienced team with more weapons than the Redskins have.

New Orleans wins.

Buffalo at New York Jets

Yes, the Jets struggled to score a touchdown in the preseason, not doing so until the final game of the preseason, also the same game the starters did not play in. And yes, they don’t have a surplus of talent at wide receiver.

But the Jets still do have a very good defense. And the Bills have just an average offense.

See the Bills lost eight of their last nine games last season, including twice to the Jets. In four of those games they failed to score two touchdowns. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for under two hundred yards four times in the final nine games and only twice in that span did a running back have 100 or more rushing yards.

The Bills more than struggled down the stretch and with the Jets at home, New York could finally get that win they’ve been waiting for since Week 14 last season.

New York Jets win.

St. Louis at Detroit

Lions players had more than their share of run ins with the law this off-season but that doesn’t take away from the talent on the field.

The Rams will start their first season with Jeff Fisher as the head coach and he would benefit greatly from a healthy Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson.

But the Rams just haven’t shown the offensive punch that can match Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.

Detroit wins.

Miami at Houston

HBO's Hard Knocks illustrated that the Dolphins may have some good practices, but they have yet to put anything together in a full game yet. And unlike the Jets, Miami has a much tougher opening weekend opponent.

The Texans have an elite wide receiver in Andre Johnson, an elite running back in Arian Foster, a great back-up to Foster in Ben Tate and a good quarterback in Matt Schaub. Houston also has top-level defense that proved to be very tenacious last season.

The Texans are a sleeper pick to reach the Super Bowl. Miami will have to fight to reach .500 this season.

Houston wins.

San Francisco at Green Bay

It’s a potential preview of the NFC Championship Game.

Both teams were strong last year. San Francisco has a dominant defense while the Packers may have overtaken the Saints for the most exciting offense.

It will be a battle for sure but at home and with the reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers the Packers may have the edge here.

Green Bay wins.

Seattle at Arizona

Let the fun of the NFC West match-ups begin!

People claim the NFL is a quarterback’s league and the Seahawks seem to be the team more settled in that position.

Russell Wilson is a rookie quarterback drafted in the middle of the draft but he has shown enough to the coaching staff in the preseason that he leapfrogged free-agent signing Matt Flynn to take over as the starting quarterback.

Meanwhile in Arizona, John Skelton beat out Kevin Kolb for the starter’s job. How much faith do you have in him?

Seattle wins.

Carolina at Tampa Bay

Cam Newton put up some electrifying stats last season, but he still has a lot to learn at the quarterback position.

That being said, Tampa Bay lost its final 10 games of the season last year and gave up 30 or more points in seven of those losses. New coach Greg Schiano did well at his previous job at Rutgers, but it’ll take some time before Tampa Bay rises in the standings.

Carolina wins.

Pittsburgh at Denver

The Steelers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Broncos in the playoffs last season. Things get even more interesting now with Peyton Manning in town.

Usually the Steelers are known for their pounding running game, but the position is thin this year with Rashard Mendenhall suffering from injuries and the other backs not having much experience. Mike Wallace also missed a large portion of the preseason due to his contract situation. With a new offensive system in place he has a lot of catching up to do.

Meanwhile Peyton Manning’s arrival should improve the quarterback position in Denver. The receivers are excited to work with him and Eric Decker has played well in the preseason.

Denver wins.

Cincinnati at Baltimore

The Bengals have built a nice foundation. Andrew Dalton and AJ Green had great rookie seasons, Mo Sanu looks like a nice addition on the opposite side of Green and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a very dependable runner who should benefit from more touches as a Bengal compared to his old role with the Patriots.

Baltimore says once again that they plan on throwing the ball more, but it’s one of those things that we’ve been hearing for years now. They do still have Ray Rice who may be the most complete running back in the NFL today. What we need to see is how much (or little) that defense will miss Terrell Suggs.

Baltimore is a very good team, but there’s something about the Bengals in this game that is screaming upset.

Cincinnati wins.

San Diego at Oakland

The Chargers were another huge disappointment last year while the Raiders lost four of their final five games.

But while the Chargers should play better, they no longer have Vincent Jackson and Ryan Matthews continues to be injured.

The Raiders will benefit from a full season from Carson Palmer, who didn’t look too bad at all last year, and the return of Darren McFadden from injury, who is obsessed with being one of the best running backs in the league.

Oakland wins.

2011: 167-93

2010: 155-96

2009: 151-73

Photo Credit.
AP Photo/Kathy Willens