|Ravens-Steelers II: Big Ben takes Flacco to the public...well, you know.|
In looking ahead to Week 9, here are three things that stand out to me…
1. Ravens vs. Steelers – Big rivalry? Check. Big rematch? Check. Control of division and possible first round bye at stake? Check. This should be fun.
2. The Schedule Factor – The 4-3 Falcons get a free win vs. the Colts, while division leading New Orleans must play Tampa Bay, a fellow NFC South competitor. In the AFC, the red-hot Chiefs get a gimme against the winless Dolphins, while San Diego must play the undefeated Packers. If that’s not a helpful swing, then I don’t know what is!
3. Big Games…Finally! – The last couple weeks have given us very few notable matchups, and left me severely disappointed. Thankfully, good matchups are back, and we should finally start to have a strong sense of what these teams are about. Jets-Bills, Buccaneers-Saints, Bengals-Titans, Giants-Patriots, Packers-Charger, Ravens-Steelers, and Bears-Eagles will all be key matchups that will shape go a long way towards shaping the playoff picture.
As for the Week 8 picks, the results were as mediocre as the games themselves. There were some spectacular wins (me picking the Cardinals to cover), and there were some horrific losses (me picking Seattle to upset Cincinnati). Let’s see how things turned out:
Week 8 Results (point spread in parentheses)
Landrum: 8-5 (7-6)
Prince: 8-5 (7-6)
Results through Week 8 (point spread in parentheses)
Landrum: 69-47 (57-52)
Prince: 74-42 (58-51)
Overall Leader: Prince +6
First of all, I would like to say how upset I am that Carolina got screwed over on that phantom holding call. That would have given me a small win for the week. At this point, any gain is huge, as I remain well back of Prince. Let’s hope this week turns out better.
New York Jets at Buffalo (BUF -1.5)
Jon: New York (NYJ +1.5)
Prince: Buffalo (BUF -1.5)
The Jets are coming off a bye, having won their previous two games, and I like this matchup for them. While I’m definitely concerned that Fred Jackson will singlehandedly dismantle the Fighting Rex Ryans, I think the Jets staunch pass defense will render the Bills too one dimensional to take over the game. Offensively, I think even Mark Sanchez can throw against the Bills. I’ve got the Jets in the upset, and I’m not sure it will be all that close.
Seattle at Dallas (DAL -12.5)
Jon: Dallas (DAL -12.5)
Prince: Dallas (DAL -12.5)
I’m obviously not sold on Dallas as a good team or anything, but I’m even less sold on Seattle as even a semi-competent team. Sean Lee’s absence will definitely be problematic for the Cowboys defense, but I highly doubt Tarvaris Jackson will be capable of taking advantage. With the Rams blowout still in mind, it just seems like Dallas might be that team who blows out all the bad teams and loses to all the good teams. It’s just their type of thing! Given that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tony Romo blew up in this one and easily dispatched the Seahawks.
Atlanta at Indianapolis (ATL -8)
Jon: Atlanta (ATL -8)
Prince: Atlanta (ATL -8)
Curtis Painter is definitely hitting his stride…and by stride, I mean throwing awful interceptions, completing a ridiculously low percentage of his passes, and generally looking like an embarrassment to football players all over the world. So no, I don’t think this game will be remotely close.
Miami at Kansas City (KC -5)
Jon: Kansas City (KC -5)
Prince: Kansas City (KC -5)
I have my doubts as to whether KC’s recent string of victories is legit or not, but their defensive improvement is undeniable. Their ball-hawking CB’s specifically have been outstanding in recent weeks, and should prove to be problematic for Matt Moore. Also, Miami sucks and they are clearly trying to land Andrew Luck.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans (NO -7.5)
Jon: New Orleans (NO -7.5)
Prince: New Orleans (NO -7.5)
There is no possible outcome for this game that would surprise me. Both teams have looked absolutely horrible at times and completely brilliant in others. Will Josh Freeman throw 4 INT’s, or will Brees throw the game away? Either could happen! Of course, either could go nuts and singlehandedly win the game too. With the Saints coming off an embarrassing loss to the previously winless Rams, I’m expecting them to be absolutely prepared to bounce back in a big way. With a raucous home crowd behind them, I’m taking the Saints to win big.
San Francisco at Washington (SF -4.5)
Jon: San Francisco (SF -4.5)
Prince: San Francisco (SF -4.5)
Not much to say here, as the 49ers should be favored by at least a TD in this game. The Redskins have absolutely no playmakers on offense and there’s very little hope of a competitive game. Not even Alex Smith can screw this up! (Then again…)
Cleveland at Houston (HOU -10.5)
Jon: Houston (CLE +10.5)
Prince: Houston (HOU -10.5)
Even with Andre Johnson’s status uncertain, there’s very little question as to who will win this game. The Browns have looked horrible all year, and are extremely fortunate to have 3 wins. Still, they’ve kept 6 of their 7 games within 10 points or less. That’s not to say they’re secretly good or anything, it just shows they can slop things up enough to keep it close. Cleveland’s 2nd ranked pass defense should help slow down the Texans enough to cover this spread.
Cincinnati at Tennessee (TEN -3)
Jon: Cincinnati (CIN +3)
Prince: Cincinnati (CIN +3)
Andy Dalton gets most of the hype for Cincinnati’s resurgence, but it’s the defense that has really gotten the job done. Against Seattle last week, the defense made up for several Andy Dalton mistakes and kept the Seahawks at bay. I wouldn’t say that’s an accomplishment, but ranking in the top ten in both pass defense and run defense certainly is. Unless Chris Johnson stops his extremely realistic tackling dummy impression, I find it unlikely that Tennessee will score enough to win this game.
Denver at Oakland (OAK -7)
Jon: Denver (DEN +7)
Prince: Oakland (DEN +7)
Darren McFadden is almost certainly out for this one, and it appears as if Michael Bush is still feeling the effects from his injury. With a severely hampered run game, the Raiders will have to drastically alter their game plan and hope Palmer is ready and able to take over immediately. So basically, it looks like the Raiders will not be scoring many points. Of course, that doesn’t mean anything if Tim Tebow can’t complete more than 3 passes in the first half. The last two games have given no hope on that front, but perhaps things will turn around a bit against the league’s 25th ranked passing defense. Perhaps it’s just false hope, but I think he has a solid showing and Denver pulls out the win.
New York Giants at New England (NE -8.5)
Jon: New England (NYG +8.5)
Prince: New England (NYG +8.5)
After a horrible showing against Pittsburgh, I’m a little confused as to the Pats are 8.5 point favorites over the division leading Giants. After all, it seems like this matchup favors a tight, high scoring affair. Eli Manning is having a random career year after falling off a bit last year, and there’s no reason to think he won’t blow up against the league’s worst pass defense. I’m thinking something like 38-35 seems about right, with New England pulling out the victory late.
St. Louis at Arizona (No Line)
Jon: St. Louis
Prince: St. Louis
The addition of Brandon Lloyd has clearly helped, and getting Bradford back into the lineup will allow them to finally take full advantage of Lloyd’s talents. Of course, that’s assuming Bradford is back. Right now, that’s up in the air, but there’s optimism that he’ll be suiting up come Sunday. Against a porous Arizona defense, I’m thinking the Rams will build on last week’s success and bring home win #2.
Green Bay at San Diego (GB -5.5)
Jon: Green Bay (GB -5.5)
Prince: Green Bay (GB -5.5)
Philip Rivers and the Chargers look pretty bad right now, and the loss of Ryan Matthews makes it all the worse. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand…well, he’s pretty good. At this point, I’m taking any GB line under a TD.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh (PIT -3)
Jon: Pittsburgh (PIT -3)
Prince: Pittsburgh (PIT -3)
This is regarded as one of the best rivalries in football, and for good reason. After the Ravens decimating of Pittsburgh in Week 1, you can bet the Steelers will be eager for payback on Sunday night. Considering how well they’ve been playing, and how poorly the Ravens have been playing, I fully expect them to get that revenge and take control of the division.
Chicago at Philadelphia (PHI -7)
Jon: Philadelphia (PHI -7)
Prince: Philadelphia (PHI -7)
The Eagles finally broke out against the Cowboys and played like the team they were hyped up to be. Some may chalk that up to the Cowboys being bad (definitely true), but I think they’ve hit their stride. Avoiding dumb mistakes will always be their biggest battle, but their talent level is too high not to succeed on some level. Given the problems on Chicago’s offensive line, Trent Cole and Jason Babin should be in Jay Cutler’s jersey all game, leading to turnovers and a big win.