Thursday, 12 December 2013

NFL Week 15 preview

Week 14 reminded us of many things. Yes Peyton can still play in the cold, the Seahawks are a very different team on the road and the Saints are a much better team in a dome.

The NFL also reminded us of the joy of participation, when you couple that with a snow blizzard that the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles played in and through.  It did not stop LeSean McCoy running up 200 plus yards of rushing with two touchdowns to enhance the Eagles playoff potential and again put questions on the Lions' who are now tied with Chicago Bears atop the NFC North with three games to go.

Week 15 predictions

Chargers (6-7) at Broncos (11-2)
The Chargers are still maintaining hopes of making the playoffs but they need to win this tough Thursday night battle on the road at Mile High.  The Broncos are rolling, as they scored 51 last week versus a tenacious Tennessee.  Wes Welker will likely miss the game due to a second concussion in a month, yet Peyton Manning has more than enough weapons at his disposal. Watch out for Julius Thomas back to full health at tight end to have a big day.
Prediction: Broncos by 10

Redskins (3-10) at Falcons (3-10)
This could have been a battle between two playoff bound sides instead bad on-field decision making and injury crises have led to this basement battle fodder. Atlanta are not playing awfully, yet could end up with the overall No.1 pick and get Jadaveon Clowney to shore up a battled defence.  They have played hard without sucking, and they should have more than enough to oppose a Washington side who have flattered to deceive pre-season expectation, built around the hopeful return of RG3 that has never materialised.
Prediction: Falcons by 7

Bears (7-6) at Browns (4-8)
Da Bears are rolling with Josh McCown at the helm making few mistakes and scoring more touchdowns.  The Browns are not as bad as their record suggests and in Josh Gordon have one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL currently.
Prediction: Bears by 6

Texans (2-11) at Colts (8-5)
If the Colts win they wrap up the division and a home playoff game, that will likely be versus the Kansas City Chiefs though.  The Colts will not fancy that match-up as their offensive line is woeful and is failing to protect the franchise Andrew Luck. In that same breathe, the Texans have enough defensive lineman to maybe trouble Luck on Sunday. However, the Texans cannot seem to win games presently and it cost Gary Kubiak his job after the most recent loss on Sunday.
Prediction: Colts by 7

Patriots (10-3) at Dolphins (7-6)
The Dolphins were one footstep from being 6-7 and out of the playoff picture, yet Antonio Brown's errant metatarsal (sideline karma is a bitch Tomlin) means the Dolphins got a big road win in the cold of Pittsburgh.  The Patriots will secure the AFC East with victory in the warmer climate of Miami; however, they will have to proceed without Rob Gronkowski who ruptured both his ACL and MCL due to a low but legal tackle.  Tom Brady will still find targets and head to Shane Vereen to benefit the most as the Pats will find a way to win.
Prediction: Pats by 3

Eagles (8-5) at Vikings (3-8-1)
The Vikings lost out to the Baltimore Ravens in a frankly bizarre game on Sunday when five touchdowns were scored in the last 2:03 of regulation. Adrian Peterson may be out this week so Toby Gerhart will get more of the workload.  The Eagles however, will want to win and keep up their momentum thanks to the work of McCoy and Nick Foles who has looked more and more secure of late.
Prediction: Eagles by 8

Seahawks (11-2) at Giants (5-8)
The Seahawks travel East for another road trip, however, unlike last week on the road in San Fran with a team close to their equal this is against the woeful New York Giants who since getting back to 5-6 cannot wait for this season to end and rebuild appropriately.
Prediction: Seahawks by 10

49ers (9-4) at Buccaneers (4-9)
The 49ers will want to maintain their momentum following the vital home win over Seattle, whilst the Bucs  suffered their first lose in five games last week.  The 49ers have Michael Crabtree back and offers a different dimension to their wideout threat, the Bucs will be competitive but cannot see them pulling off the upset.
Prediction: 49ers by 6

Bills (4-9) at Jaguars (4-9)
The Jaguars are on a roll, four wins in five and been impressive with how they have conducting themselves following an 0-8 start. Chad Henne and a returning MJD has helped along with the reliable Cecil Shorts.  The Bills were my tip for a .500 record but the injury to EJ Manuel was something they never recovered from.
Prediction: Jaguars by 7

Chiefs (10-3) at Raiders (4-8)
The Chiefs properly beat up the Washington NFL team last week, if the ref from the Froch-Groves fight was in charge he might have stopped it after six minutes of the second quarter.  The Chiefs still maintain hope of winning the AFC West however they need to continue winning and hope the Broncos come unstuck. The latter is unlikely, but a win over the Raiders is possible. The Raiders have played better than their record suggests but will they have any answer to Jamaal Charles this week.
Prediction: Chiefs by 12

Jets (6-7) at Panthers (9-4)
The Panthers bandwagon came unstuck in the New Orleans dome last week as Rob Ryan's defence had an answer to the play action, run plays of the Panthers. The Jets are suffering behind the so-so play of Geno Smith who is finding out how tough and intense an NFL season is in comparison to the College set-up.  The Panthers will need to bounce back, with Greg Olsen and Steve Smith going to have good days against the Jets secondary.
Prediction: Panthers by 7

Packers (6-6-1) at Cowboys (7-6)
The Cowboys blew up in windy and cold Chicago, luckily they are back at home and facing a Packers team who will still be without Aaron Rodgers whose collarbone and neck injury has not been cleared. Cowboys are one game behind the Eagles atop the NFC East, they need to win desperately.
Prediction: Cowboys by 7

Cardinals (8-5) at Titans (5-8)
The Cardinals have been the biggest surprise of the NFL season, and the most pleasant as man for man they are lesser than some other more vaunted teams. Considering the division they are in, it is a surprise they have 8 wins already and usually that would be good enough for a playoff spot.  However, they are sitting in 7th position behind the 49ers (9-4) and Panthers (9-4), they need to hope one of those teams slips up in due course especially Carolina who they beat earlier in the season 22-6 at home.
After the Titans they go to Seattle, then host San Fran on the last weekend of regular season. The Panthers host the Saints next week, so the Cardinals are not done yet, but most definitely hopeful.  Carson Palmer has two great receiving targets; Larry Fitzgerald and Malcolm Floyd, and two established running backs in Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington.
Prediction: Cardinals by 7

Saints (10-3) at Rams (5-8)
The Saints are close to wrapping up the #2 seed in the NFC, but they have to avoid this potential banana skin on the road at St. Louis although being indoors in December will surely be a home away from home for Drew Brees and his high scoring offence.
Prediction: Saints by 8

Bengals (9-4) at Steelers (5-8)
Good old fashioned AFC North slugfest in most likely freezing conditions, this will be a big test of the Bengals intentions as they need to win this game to stave off the Ravens revival.  The Steelers will be gutted having been so close to an unlikely last minute victory at home to the Dolphins, nevertheless they will still play hard in spite of not being able to finish better than .500 this year.
Prediction: Bengals by 2

Ravens (7-6) at Lions (7-6)
Two evenly matched teams on paper and record, but indoors the Lions will want to put on a show.  Oddly, rookie Safety Matt Elam has just called Calvin Johnson 'pretty old', which for a 27 year old physical specimen is an odd thing to say.  Whilst no respect was surely meant, where else is Matthew Stafford going to throw on Monday night. Reggie Bush will hopefully be back from an ankle injury to lend his rushing and receiving skills to the Lions party.  The Ravens are doing well to stay in the playoff picture, partly due to the woeful nature of the AFC competition - apart from the top 3 of Denver, New England and KC - however, Ray Rice is getting better numbers and Denis Pitta is back from injury and provides Joe Flacco with a safety blanket of a receiver like Jason Witten for Tony Romo in Dallas.
Prediction: Lions by 4

Follow me @JamieGarwood

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

NFL Week 14 review

What did we learn in Week 13?

Well the Seattle Seahawks have possibly punched their ticket to New York in February by securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs, while not totally tied up, should they go to San Francisco this weekend and win they will be all but their by owning tiebreaks over the 49ers, New Orleans and Carolina who they have all beaten this season thus far.

What Monday night's dominant performance versus the Saints showed was how difficult it is for visiting teams to function on the road in the raucous atmosphere of Seattle - we all know it is loud, but if a team cannot even get play calls right and have to change personnel constantly they do not give themselves much of a chance.  The loud atmosphere induces mistakes from veterans. 

That coupled with the fact that Russell Wilson is turning into a master orchestrator of this offence with options everywhere for him to distribute - run, play action, wide out, tight end, solo run; helped by the now named Legion of Boom defence which makes the great look bad as Brees did on Monday.

I think back to the draft of 2012 and all the talk about who will win a Super Bowl ring first between RG3 and Andrew Luck. Might Russell Wilson, the 3rd round pick who beat Matt Flynn for the starting job, beat them both to the vaunted status of Super Bowl champion.

Other things to consider: the Packers need Aaron Rodgers back asap, Geno Smith should not be dumped but needs to be benched to save his season, Denver will be the No 1 seed in the AFC and Houston could be the team with the No 1 pick in the 2014 draft.

Week 14 predictions

Texans (2-10) at Jaguars (3-9)
The Jags came up big on the road at Cleveland suddenly becoming a fun team to watch with running backs throwing TD passes.  The Texans were 14 points up on the Patriots but in a shoot-out Tom Brady beat Case Keenum.  Keenum is a decent QB but he needs some more time studying.  The Jaguars are oddly the favourite in this encounter and should win.
Prediction: Jaguars by 7

Colts (8-4) at Bengals (8-4)
The Bengals are still winning without setting the world alight and the same can be said for Andrew Luck. The key to this game will be how well the Bengals D can attack Luck who has taken many beatings this season, and will rely on Donald Brown who is favoured to Trent Richardson at running back. You can run on the Bengals though.
Prediction: Bengals by 4

Falcons (3-9) at Packers (5-6-1)
The Packers are treading water but still have a chance of making the playoffs; whilst Aaron Rodgers has not been cleared he has not been ruled out.  It may ultimately come down to the man himself, but they need him. They still have Lacy and some talent at wide out; however, the Falcons have been playing hard through these awful injuries. They still have Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez, and Detroit showed up this poor secondary on Thanksgiving.
Prediction: Falcons by 3 (if Rodgers does not start)

Browns (4-8) at Patriots (9-3)
The Patriots have the chance to further secure the #2 seed behind the Broncos who look unstoppable. The Browns have come close to 6-6 but obviously have had their usual run of bad luck as always.  Brady looks to be back in the groove helped by the return of Gronkowski to full health and Shane Vereen in his best Kevin Faulk impression. Josh Gordon should have another 100+ yard receiving game
Prediction: Patriots by 8

Raiders (4-8) at Jets (5-7)
The Jets will not make the playoffs and you doubt that Rex Ryan will lie down and await the draft.  He benched Geno Smith again, the Raiders did some good things against Dallas on Thanksgiving with Matt McGloin showed some real poise under pressure helped by Rashad Jennings at running back.
Prediction: Raiders by 4 (and £50 to a mate of mine)

Lions (7-5) at Eagles (7-5)
Now Detroit have the lead of the NFC North, a home playoff game is there for the taking, they have to find a key to some consistency. However, Nick Foles rarely turns the ball over and he will be tested by that front 7 for sure.  Expect big numbers for everyone in terms of fantasy.
Prediction: Eagles by 3, over 80 points

Dolphins (6-6) at Steelers (5-7)
The Dolphins impressively went into the Meadowlands and shut down the Jets to get back to .500 and still have the most realistic chance of making the playoffs.  They can maintain that by beating the Steelers who had gained a second wind but seem to have run out of steam again due to injuries and ageing.
Prediction: Dolphins by 3

Bills (4-8) at Buccaneers (3-9)
This should actually be quite an entertaining game, but the Bills are somewhat like the Browns in that their record should be better whilst the Bucs have done better than people suspected they would.
Prediction: Bucs by 4

Chiefs (9-3) at Redskins (3-9)
Kansas City need to get back on the W bus after two defeats to the Broncos and a solitary shoot out loss to San Diego; luckily they face the woeful Redskins who still play a terribly sub-par RG3 who is not the man he was last season.
Prediction: Chiefs by 10

Vikings (3-8-1) at Ravens (6-6)
The Ravens will win this one, but Adrian Peterson will be the beast he always is.
Prediction: Ravens by 7

Titans (5-7) at Broncos (10-2)
The Broncos won two big games in three weeks sandwiching a close loss in New England. Whilst much is made of Manning's aversion to cold weather, the AFC must go through the Mile High to get to New York. After 4 TDs for Eric Decker last week, which WR will be the popular target, whilst that was merely a match-up decision, expect Welker/D.Thomas to get their fair share of targets this week.
Prediction: Broncos by 10

Rams (5-7) at Cardinals (7-5)
The Cardinals still have ambitions of making the playoffs, but they require the 49ers to slip up and then beat them in the last weeks of the season.  The Cardinals are doing well with Carson Palmer who is finding Fitzgerald/Floyd frequently. That's a lot of f's
Prediction: Cardinals by 6

Giants (5-7) at Chargers (5-7)
The Chargers are another side with a false record, but they should beat the Giants whose momentum has waned and were helped by the Redskins faux pas on Sunday night.
Prediction: Chargers by 7

Seahawks (11-1) at 49ers (8-4)
The Seahawks put down a marker for the rest of the season, and they have the number of Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offence.  The 49ers have to find an answer to that D and also attempt to stop a rampant Russell Wilson. Good luck
Prediction: Seahawks by 7

Panthers (9-3) at Saints (9-3)
The Saints this week will be the team benefiting from the 2nd loudest home field. However, we know what the Saints can and will do at home. This is the test for these Carolina Panthers, who have avoided banana skins, overcome the Patriots and impressed generally. This is the game for them to make people stand up. The Saints found it difficult to stop Wilson's play action and run option with either himself or Marshawn Lynch. The Panthers have a great run attack whilst Greg Olsen is getting good numbers.
Prediction: Panthers by 3

Cowboys (7-5) at Bears (6-6)
Josh McCown v Tony Romo; this should be a good one.  Alshon Jeffrey has had two 200+ yard receiving games this season, the Cowboys have a poor secondary so McCown may have some fun. But then so will Tony Romo, who is in greater sync with his receivers presently.
Prediction: Cowboys by 3

Follow me @JamieGarwood