Week Four Predictions

As we approach the quarter mark of the 2012 NFL season we are treated to a mouth watering slate of games. Teams like New Orleans and Green Bay are desperate for a win to reassert their pre-season status as play-off certainties, whilst Arizona will hope to prove that victories over New England and Philadelphia weren’t flukes. Last week I went 6-9 with my predictions, so if you’re putting any bets on the games tomorrow… don’t take my advice!

Carolina @ Atlanta
Cam Newton is yet to really get going this season, whilst the Falcons keep rolling along and are looking more and more like one of the genuine Superbowl contenders in the NFL at present. The Panthers can’t stop anyone on defense at the moment, so expect Matt Ryan to continue his torrid start to the year in the Georgia Dome. Panthers 21, Falcons 31

New England @ Buffalo
It’s difficult to analyse this game and not double take when you realise the Patriots haven’t been under .500 since week two in 2003. Of course, at 1-2 New England finds itself with a losing record for the first time in nine years, and it’ll be a real test of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to see if they can overturn their poor start to the season. When New England entered Philadelphia after a week one defeat in the aforementioned 2003 season I was actually in attendance to witness a massacre that included three Donovan McNabb interceptions and Christian Fauria catching two touchdown passes for the Pats, and I see a similar outcome this Sunday. Patriots 27, Bills 18

Minnesota @ Detroit
The Vikes are fresh off the biggest shock of the NFL season so far, their victory over the much fancied San Francisco 49ers last week. Christian Ponder is developing into a very good quarterback, and Detroit has one of the worst secondaries I can remember. Calvin Johnson should rack up some receiving yards himself but I’m on the Vikings bandwagon… at least for this week. Vikings 26, Lions 24

Tennessee @ Houston
Houston continues to be proclaimed the best team in the AFC, and maybe even the NFL, by most pundits and the Titans should offer little in the way of opposition. Although they managed an overtime shootout victory against the Lions, the Titans face a completely different calibre of opponent this week and Arian Foster, Matt Shaub and the gang should be able to exploit a porous defensive unit and seal a comfortable home win. Titans 17, Texans 27

San Diego @ Kansas City
Before last week the Chargers were one of the hot teams in the NFL, but after being dismantled by the Falcons they will be seeking an immediate bounce back against a Chiefs team that had failed to live up to expectations thus far this season until last weeks upset of the Saints. Jamaal Charles erupted last week for over 200 yards rushing, but the Chargers have a strong run D and Phillip Rivers could be in for a big day against Romeo Crennels defense. It should be close, but I’m gunning for a road win in this AFC west battle. Chargers 28, Chiefs 20

San Francisco @ New York Jets
This cross conference battle pits a Niners team intent on bouncing back from last weeks showing against a Jets outfit who are still probably crying into their cornflakes over the loss of Darrell Revis for the year with a torn ACL. Revis will be missed no doubt, but the 49ers don’t pass the ball all that effectively so this game could be one the Jets might get away with. Nonetheless I’d be surprised if San Fran didn’t come out with a little fire in their belly after last week, so I’m giving this one to the west coasters. 49ers 17, Jets 14

Seattle @ St. Louis
It must be strange to be a Seattle fan, coach or player after last weeks win against Green Bay. From one point of view you’ve just beaten one of the best teams in the league on the last play of the game, from another you robbed a victory with assistance from the now (thankfully) extinct replacement refs. Seattle is 2-1, when really they should be 1-2. That happens to be the same record as the Rams, and I happen to think identical records would suit these two evenly matched teams. For that reason, and the fact the Rams are at home, I’m plumping for a Rams win that’ll lead to folk from Seattle pleading for the replacements to return. Seahawks 21, Rams 27

Miami @ Arizona
The Cardinals have to be the biggest surprise of the NFL season so far. Not only are they 3-0, but they’ve beaten two highly touted teams in New England and Philadelphia. Miami lack the same ability on offense of the Patriots and Eagles but they probably have a stronger defense than either which will turn this game into something different than the Cards have encountered so far. Ryan Tannehill hasn’t been too bad so far but I can’t see him out performing Kevin Kolb, who’s ball management style of playing the QB position is somewhat reminiscent of Alex Smith in San Francisco. Dolphins 14, Cardinals 20

Cincinnati @ Jacksonville
This match up is a fairly low key one – the Jaguars are awful and I’m not sure the majority of people who follow the NFL realise just how talented Andy Dalton and A.J Green are. The Bengals offense is explosive, as shown last week when they ran roughshed over the Redskins defense, so it figures that the Bengals will win this one with some points to spare. Maurice Jones Drew is basically the Jaguars offense, so if he can break a few runs and Blaine Gabbert limits his mistakes it could stay close. But it won’t. Bengals 34, Jaguars 21

New Orleans @ Green Bay
Both these teams are reeling following poor results last week, although whilst Green Bay aren’t where they want to be the Saints are flat out desperate right now. They miss the leadership Sean Payton gives them, whilst Drew Brees hasn’t quite been able to orchestrate the offense to the tune it usually plays at. The same can be said of Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, which is worrying because they have more of a running game this year than they had at any point in 2011. Is this the week both units wake up? We’re about to find out. The Packers defense has the kind of play makers that New Orleans wishes they had, and for that reason I’m predicting the Saints begin the year with four losses on the spin. Saints 32, Packers 38

Washington @ Tampa Bay
RG III mania has tailed off in recent weeks, and his opening game win in New Orleans may have been misleading when you consider how poor the Saints have been since. Griffin can obviously play though, whilst Josh Freeman continues to confuse observers with his patchy play after a horrendous 2011 season. The Redskins would love to have some of their injured defensive players back, namely Brian Orakpo, so Freeman might actually be able to move the ball this week. I think he can, and I think the Buccaneers D is good enough to shackle Griffin into some mistakes befitting a rookie quarterback. Redskins 20, Buccaneers 23

I’ll forecast the Sunday and Monday night games tomorrow night, but for now I’m retiring to watch the final couple of holes of Ryder Cup action tonight. Come on Europe!

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Referee’s Lockout Over; Ravens hold off Browns

It’s been a busy and important couple of days in the NFL, with both on and off field action making the headlines. Thankfully, the referees lockout has been resolved and the league can return to normalcy with regards to the officiating. It goes without question that the debacle on Monday night accelerated talks between the league and the referees union, so maybe something good can come out of a disaster like the one that occurred in the Green Bay-Seattle game. In other news, the Baltimore Ravens moved to 3-1 after they were ran closer than expected by an ever improving Cleveland Browns team. Brandon Weeden led a late drive which resulted in a hail mary being heaved into the end zone, unfortunately for the Browns the ball fell incomplete (unlike last Monday night in Seattle) and the Ravens held on for Joe Flacco’s ninth win out of nine games played against Cleveland. I’ll review both of these events in this post, and hopefully offer an insightful opinion on what has been a busy couple of days in NFL land.

Roger Goodell and the league really had no choice but to end the lockout after the steadily declining standard of officiating from the replacements. The locked out refs’ must have been filled with glee every time a replacement missed/blew a call last weekend, whilst Goodell himself would have been grimacing at the leverage the officials were gaining. However when it’s all said and done it is the fans, the coaches and the players who suffered the most over the seasons first three weeks, so the end of the lockout should make the games more enjoyable for the consumer and participants whilst the billionaire owners are forced to fork out just that little extra on the referees pension fund.

According to Pro Football Talk, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Giants co-owner John Mara were the two driving forces behind making a deal happen so they deserve some praise, whilst if you’re looking for a villain of the piece then Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Jets owner Woody Johnson apparently were two of the owners who were still keen on prolonging the lockout even after last weekends comedy of errors.

One of the other nuggets of information that has emerged over the past couple of days is that the officiating pool will now expand to include, in essence, a ‘practice squad’ where referees can be trained year round and then inserted into the refereeing rotation should another official be under performing. This should help the overall standard improve, whilst hopefully the fact that referees will now be looking over their shoulders will spur them on to improved performances.

One last word on the replacement refs’ before we move on to the actual business of playing football –  this quote from replacement official Jeff Sadorus is a gem; “Everyone wanted perfection, but come on: the last guy who was perfect, they nailed to a cross. And he wasn’t even official”. So there you go!

Now, to last nights game in Baltimore. The Ravens were expected by most to run away with this one, is the fact that they ended up clinging on for dear life will tarnish the W just a tad. Nonetheless, a win is a win and the Ravens have put a pile of pressure on Cincinnati this weekend as they visit Jacksonville whilst Pittsburgh lay idle in their bye week in the knowledge that they’ve lost half a game in the standings.

As far as individual performances went, Brandon Weeden caught the eye with a 320 yard performance through the air. Weeden’s gradual improvement since his week one horror show has been a positive for the Browns despite their 0-4 start to the season. Trent Richardson extended his touchdown streak to three games, although he could only manage 47 yards on the ground. Richardson has been steady thus far this year, but Cleveland fans could be forgiven for having expected more out of the drafts third overall selection a quarter of the way through the season. For the Ravens Cary Williams was the star defensive performer with a 63 yard interception return for a touchdown, and Anquan Boldin broke out for the first time this season by catching nine balls for 131 yards. Joe Flacco amassed 356 passing yards on top of two scores (one rushing, one passing) and kept the Ravens momentum going after last weeks victory over New England. The way this season is shaping up Baltimore looks to be one of the best teams in the AFC, and if it hadn’t been for a late Michael Vick inspired touchdown drive when Philly defeated them the Ravens might well be undefeated.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my predictions for this weekends action. Additionally, I’m hoping to release a quarter-season review sometime next week so long as I can find the time, so stay tuned!

The straw that broke the Camel’s back..

Week three of the NFL season has been and gone, leaving in its wake a trail of destruction and angry head coaches. After two weeks of adequate, and I use that term loosely, refereeing the replacement officials self-destructed spectacularly over the course of the weekend. Of course, the highlight of a bad weekend of officiating was the final play on Monday Night Football where the Green Bay Packers were robbed of a victory thanks to that inexplicable “simultaneous possession” call on a Russell Wilson hail mary pass for Seattle. The Packers had every right to feel slighted in this instance by the replacements, but really it isn’t the officials fault that they’re so bad, it’s the NFL’s fault for putting them in this ludicrous position. They should never have ended up in this state to begin with, and probably never in a million years expected to be wearing stripes on an NFL field. The NFL and the referees union needs to sort something out soon, hopefully this week, if the league is to regain any credibility and stop this season dissolving into a farce. It’s already possible after just three weeks that a team such as the Packers could miss the play-offs because of a bad call, and after another week of terrible decisions the entire season could end up needing an asterisk placed beside it. After all the commotion over the players lockout before last season you’d have thought Roger Goodell might have learnt his lesson, he obviously hasn’t and his term as commissioner could ultimately be remembered for poor negotiating skills and lockouts as opposed to the highest ratings the league has ever seen and the International Series games he has seen played in London over the past five years.

I won’t be reviewing last weeks action this time as it’s Wednesday already, and coupled with the fact that I wasn’t able to view many games it would be a fruitless exercise. I will however be back in the next couple of days with a preview for this weekends action, and some more thoughts on the latest news around the league

Giants crush Panthers; Week Three Predictions

The New York Giants kicked off the third week of the NFL season with a comfortable victory on the  road against the Carolina Panthers, a 36-7 hammering that improved the Giants record to 2-1 whilst dropping the Panthers to 1-2. Even without starting running back Ahmed Bradshaw New York were able to move the ball effectively all night, with Bradshaw’s deputy Andre Brown carrying 20 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Although this performance shows talent on Browns behalf, it also exposes some serious shortcomings in the Panthers defence that they are going to need to correct if they want to challenge for a play-off spot this season. Here are a few more things I took away from the game:

-After three quarters of last weeks comeback against Tampa Bay the Giants were worried that their Superbowl defense had ended before it had really begun. Yet in the five quarters since New York has drawn upon it’s never say die, backs against the wall mentality that has come to represent the Tom Coughlin era that has yielded two Lombardi trophies. Not only did the Giants roar back to defeat the Buccaneers, they then travelled on the road, on a short week and dismantled Carolina with their most complete performance of the season to date.

-This particular NFL season continues to baffle most experts, and is an excellent example of the parity the league sought to bring to the league when it introduced the salary cap two decades ago. The Giants have just defeated the Panthers, who defeated the Saints just last week, yet the Saints lost to the Redskins in week one before Washington then lost to the Rams last week. In short, not many teams are yet to lose a game despite only two weeks having past, a stark contrast to recent years when teams such as the Colts, Packers and Saints have come seriously close to perfect regular seasons (not to mention the 2007 Patriots who actually did go 16-0).

-Cam Newton threw three interceptions and rushed for just six yards at one yard per carry to continue his disappointing season to date. Newton has already thrown five picks and fumbled the ball twice (one lost) in an error laden start, whilst contributing just 81 yards on the ground. If the Panthers are going to win many football games they need not only Newton to be better, but to protect their franchise player and give him at least to opportunity to win games for the team. It’s worth noting that Newton has been sacked six times already in spite of his obvious mobility and strength.

Now that I’ve recapped last nights action, here is what I predict will happen this coming weekend in the completely unpredictable world of the NFL. Last week I went 8-8, including a perfect score on the Vikings-Colts game.

St. Louis @ Chicago
The Rams defeated Washington last week and held rookie sensation Robert Griffin III in check whilst moving the ball extremely well themselves. The star performer was Danny Amendola, who hauled in 16 passes so the Bears will need to do a good job on him if they want to prevent Sam Bradford from having another prolific outing. The Bears themselves were poor on Thursday Night Football last week, and I see that form carrying over to this week especially without Matt Forte, who remains a doubt. Rams 23, Bears 21

Buffalo @ Cleveland
After last weeks polished performance against Kansas City the Bills will attempt to tide their momentum from that win all the way into Cleveland, who whilst showing improvement from week’s one to two still lost for the second week running. Trent Richardson gives the Browns a genuine offensive weapon, and I predict the Jekyll and Hyde Bills will suffer at his hands (or feet) in an upset. Bills 18, Browns 24

Tampa Bay @ Dallas
Dallas were probably the most disappointing team in the NFL last week, falling to a 20 point loss in Seattle after defeating the reigning Superbowl champ Giants in week one. Demarco Murray has had a solid season so far but the receiving core has flattered to deceive, whilst Jason Witten battles to overcome his injury and regain effectiveness. Tampa on the other hand has been a pleasant surprise, Josh Freeman having rebounded from last years horror show and the young defence showing potential. I’d love the ‘boys to lose and fall further behind my Eagles in the NFC east, but I’m gonna take the safe option on this one and give the home team the advantage. Buccaneers 17, Cowboys 27

Jacksonville @ Indianapolis
Andrew Luck, fresh of his first NFL win, looks to lead the Colts to a winning record and with the AFC south being such a poor division a victory here is a must if the Colts are to challenge for a wild card, as unlikely as they are to get one. Luck looked polished a week ago and Reggie Wayne is showing vital veteran nouse, although the defense is troubling with the exception of Dwight Freeney at defensive end. The Jags look poor, so expect the Colts to run their win streak to a huge… two. Jaguars 15, Colts 30

New York Jets @ Miami
Are the week one Jets or week two Jets the actual Jets? This week could go a long way to answering that question, and getting Darrell Revis back from a concussion (he’s questionable) could help generate a positive answer. Reggie Bush will test the Jets run defense, and the former USC running back has quietly been exceptional since he joined the Dolphins before last season. Bush is averaging six YPC and has amassed 241 yards on the ground already, giving rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill the perfect safety net as he gets his feet wet in the NFL. A lot depends on Mark Sanchez in this one, and because I don’t trust him (and think he’s a terrible QB) I’m leaning towards the ‘phins. Jets 20, Dolphins 24

San Francisco @ Minnesota
On paper, this game looks like a huge mismatch. That’s because it is. Christian Ponder probably hasn’t slept all week, and I wouldn’t blame him for waking up in cold sweats at the thought of facing Patrick Willis and co. Meanwhile on the other side of the ball Alex Smith has now turned the ball over just once in his past 15 quarters of football. Those who still think he is just a competent QB with no real skill or ability need to accept the fact that Smith is turning into a very, very good signal caller. It takes a special player to look after the ball so well and his mobility in the pocket makes the offensive line look better than it probably is (although it is still a very good unit. Blowout. 49ers 38, Vikings 13

Kansas City @ New Orleans
The Saints have to win this game, as do the Chiefs. Coming into the season the expectations for these two outfits were miles apart, yet they find themselves with the same record and with their respective seasons on life support. Matt Cassell has actually been pretty good so far, and is only one touchdown behind Drew Brees after two games. More importantly for the Chiefs they need to get Jamaal Charles going after his cold start (91 yards, 22 carries) and play better defense after they let the Bills ride rough shed over them last Sunday. The Saints should win this given they’re playing at home, but stranger things have happened than a Kansas City win. Chiefs 24, Saints 23

Detroit @ Tennessee
Early doors, the Titans look absolutely terrible. The Lions haven’t been great so far, but this match up could be just what the doctor ordered if the Lions are to kick start their season following a close win over the Rams and a thrashing at the hands of San Francisco last week. I expect Matthew Stafford to go to town on the Titans pass D and Calvin Johnson to bag himself a score or two. Lions 35, Titans 24

Cincinnati @ Washington
Cinci pulled out a win last week against the Browns in a key divisional game, whilst the Redskins lost a tight game in St. Louis. RG III makes his home debut in this encounter, and he’ll fancy his chances of a big game against a Bengals pass defense that has flat out struggled so far this season. Andy Dalton and A.J Green have continued their rise to stardom thus far this year and this game has all the makings of a shoot out following the season ending injuries to Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo of the Redskins from last weeks game. Two young, talented QB’s face off and two, porous defenses try to stop them. I like Marvin Lewis’s chances of accomplishing that aim more than Mike Shanahans. Bengals 31, Redskins 28

Philadelphia @ Arizona
These two teams have a combined 4-0 record, yet have outscored their opponents by a combined eight points. Figure that one out! Both have played strong AFC foes in the Ravens and Patriots, yet it appears as if the Eagles are being touted far more as the real deal than are the Cardinals, which could spur Arizona on in their home arena. Kevin Kolb gets a chance to prove Andy Reid made the wrong choice in Michael Vick, whilst Vick attempts to eliminate turnovers from his game. Calais Cambell leads a strong Arizona D and if the Eagles are to win a defensive battle two things must happen: the defense must continue to perform at the high level it has played at thus far, and Vick must look after the ball. I can see the first happening, but the second remains a mystery. I’m going glass half full (from an Eagles perspective, obviously) Eagles 20, Cardinals 13

Atlanta @ San Diego
These two teams might just be the most convincing of the 2-0 club so far in 2012, but neither is getting respect as the best team in their respective conferences which seems a bit strange. The Falcons have struggled in the post-season over the past few years so that’s clearly behind most peoples rationing, yet the Chargers I can’t quite work out. The defense is stronger than it has been in a couple of years and Phillip Rivers has returned to an elite level – so far. I love how Julio Jones has exploded on to the scene this season as a top 5 receiver, and his ascension has also benefited Matt Ryan as he now has Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez to throw the ball to. If he can’t put up gaudy numbers with those three he never will, and I think he’ll deliver this week and have a few more people talking about the dirty birds. Falcons 28, Chargers 24

Houston @ Denver
Peyton Manning had a very un-Peyton like performance last week by throwing three interceptions, and the Texans defense will do him no favours with it’s accomplished secondary. I can’t see the Broncos moving the ball on the ground against Houston, not the way they’ve been playing so far this season, and I can see Arian Foster continuing to hit pay dirt for the Texans as they roll to 3-0 and reaffirm themselves as the elite team in the AFC. Texans 21, Broncos 17

Pittsburgh @ Oakland
Ben Roethlisberger has two Superbowl wins, the same as Eli Manning and one behind Tom Brady, yet he doesn’t quite get the same level of recognition. Granted, his first win in 2005 he barely threw the ball (and didn’t throw well when he did) but Big Ben has a real shot at the Hall of Fame. I don’t know where I’m going with this, but I think what I’m trying to say is the Steelers will comfortably win on Sunday and Roethlisberger will be a key reason why. Steelers 27, Raiders 19

New England @ Baltimore
The Patriots, Ravens, Cardinals and Eagles appear to be holding a small round robin tournament consisting of just those four teams, and the third place play-off takes place in Maryland on Sunday Night Football. The Patriots had a far worse loss last week, at home against a (probably) weaker Arizona team and Tom Brady appeared to struggle mightily once Aaron Hernandez went down. You have to think the Ravens can game plan to cover Rob Gronkowski, especially now Wes Welker is being ignored by anyone important in New England, and without a genuine rushing threat the Ravens and Joe Flacco should bounce back at home and leave the Patriots in a 1-2 hole. Patriots 21, Ravens 23

Green Bay @ Seattle
The Packers were impressive against Chicago last week despite not moving the ball through the air with much success for the second week in a row, which asks the question how good will they look when they do manage to get Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings etc. involved in the action? Seattle have impressed so far and a 20 point win over Dallas is nothing to be sniffed at, with the Seahawks D playing at a very high level thus far. The Seahawks could quite easily be 2-0 had they held on against Arizona but after this week I’m afraid they’ll slip to 1-2 and two games off the pace in the NFC west. Packers 28, Seahawks 24

So that’s what I think will happen, if you want to see what actually happens then tune in to Sky Sports on Sunday evening and hide the TV remote for nine hours while you watch the NFL uninterrupted until 3 am. Either that, or visit this site again next week for a take on everything that transpired over the weekend!
 

Thoughts on early games; Predictions for SNF and MNF

Just a few notes on the games that have already taken place this evening (or afternoon if you’re in America):

– Philly pulled out a nail biter against the Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field, despite committing four turnovers a week after giving the ball away five times. Michael Vick scored the winning touchdown with two minutes left and the Eagles defense held against Joe Flacco in a battle of two potential play-off teams. Huge win for the birds, crushing loss for Baltimore.

– New England was shocked by Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals, at home no less. I predicted a big Patriots win, but that goes to show what I know. The Pats struggled to score points and Kolb did just enough to get the Cardinals over the line. New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski had a chance to win the game with three seconds left but hooked his kick, giving Arizona the biggest upset of the season so far.

– Another upset was registered in Carolina, where the Panthers edged out New Orleans 35-27. I predicted this result correctly, so I guess that makes up for the Cardinals win. Drew Brees was intercepted twice and the Saints were playing catch up nearly the whole way as Cam Newton reaffirmed his status as one of the NFL’s rising stars. The Saints, having fallen to 0-2, now face a fight to save their season in the coming weeks and this divisional game will leave a sour taste in the mouth.

– Houston handled Jacksonville, with Arian Foster scoring one and Ben Tate two touchdowns as the Texans rolled 27-7. They really look like the real deal after two games, and the Jaguars look like a team with little to no chance of even breaking .500 this season.

– The Giants rallied to a 41-34 victory over Tampa Bay after the Buccaneers had led 27-16 heading into the fourth quarter. Eli Manning threw three picks but bounced back to record over 500 yards passing and Victor Cruz erupted for 179 yards and a score following his drop laden performance in week one. This was a must have for New York and they have their passing game to thank for it, although Tampa Bay will be furious to have let such a winnable game slip through their grasp.

– Christian Ponder nearly led the Vikings to an unlikely comeback against the Colts in Indianapolis, throwing two fourth quarter touchdowns to tie the score at 20 with just 30 seconds left, only to see Adam Viniatieri nail a 53 yard field goal as time ran out. How New England would love to have Viniatieri back, but their loss is the Colts gain and Andrew Luck deserved his first career win after a steady performance including two touchdown tosses, including one to the evergreen Reggie Wayne.

– Buffalo handled Kansas City 35-17 to bounce back nicely from last weeks humiliation at the hands of the New York Jets, with the Chiefs scoring 14 of their points in the fourth quarter after the game had already been decided. C.J Spiller ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns in place of the injured Fred Jackson, and on this evidence Jackson will struggle to regain his starting role. With New England losing it will come as a bit of a shock to some that the Bills possess the same record as the Patriots despite their polar opposite results last weekend.

– Cincinnati defeated Cleveland 34-27, with Andy Dalton throwing three touchdown passes in what was an impressive offensive outburst from the Bengals. Their defense however has some questions hanging over their head after they allowed Brandon Weeden to throw for 322 yards, although it was the play of Trent Richardson which drew the most attention for the Browns. Richardson rushed for and caught one touchdown, totalling 109 yards on the ground on just 19 carries. The short term future isn’t bright for Cleveland but at least they know they have one of the premier young running backs in the game on their roster.

– Oakland was annihilated by Miami, 35-13 in a result far more lopsided than anyone could have foreseen. The Raiders actuallly led 10-7 at the half, but a Reggie Bush inspired Dolphins offense put up 28 points in the second half after the former USC tailback scored two touchdowns and compiled 172 rushing yards. Carson Palmer threw for 372 yards but he also threw an interception as ultimately the Raiders run defense tired and was unable to stop a rampant Miami run the score up.

After you’ve digested an already enthralling day of football, here’s a sneak peak at the late game tonight and tomorrows Monday Night Football match up.

Detroit @ San Francisco
Detroit and their explosive passing game, highlighted by quarterback Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, meet the 49ers and their stout defense. Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman are the best inside linebacker pairing in the NFL, so running lanes will be at a premium putting pressure on Stafford to win the game with his arm. He’s done it before, but against lesser teams than the niners and Alex Smith continues to defy those who have labelled him a mediocre NFL QB and a bust. The niners are the real deal, so I’m going with them, especially at home. Lions 18, 49ers 24

Denver @ Atlanta
Peyton Manning faces Matt Ryan and the Falcons in the Georgia Dome, with both teams coming off encouraging week one wins. Atlanta seems set on airing it out this year but the Broncos and Champ Bailey don’t get beat often in the air so the dirty birds may have to lean on Michael Turner in the running game once more. I’ve never quite been sold on Matt Ryan, particularly in big games, and Manning has the pedigree to go and grab an upset road win in a hostile environment. If, and it’s a big if, Denver can contain Julio Jones they win this one. Broncos 27, Atlanta 21

It’s already been a great weekend of football and as I write this Dallas are being handled by the Seahawks and Washington are slugging it out with the Rams, so hopefully tonight and tomorrow continue to provide entertainment for those of us in the UK who stay up late to digest some more NFL action.

Week Two Picks

It’s that time of the week again where this Sundays games are on the horizon, and I’ll once again attempt to predict what will happen once the teams step onto the field. It’s only the second week of the season but already some teams are desperate for a victory, whilst others are intent upon building on a good start. It’s only a 16 game season, remember, so two games actually represents one-eighth of the entire yearly schedule. Without further ado, here’s what I think the scores will be in the weeks 15 remaining fixtures.

Kansas City @ Buffalo
Both of these outfits suffered disappointing defeats in week one, and with a further loss in week two will fear their season is already over. Mario Williams had a poor debut against the Jets for Buffalo and the entire defense struggled, but they should have a much better chance of success against Matt Cassel and the Chiefs. However Ryan Fitzpatrick was poor in New York, and Fred Jackson has been ruled out of this contest with an injury so whether Buffalo can put many points on the board is another question. I’m going for Cassel and the Chiefs in this toss up. Chiefs 20, Bills 13

New Orleans @ Carolina
Another match up of two teams without a win one week into the season, this game features two divisional rivals desperate to get on the board in the win column. Drew Brees and the Saints offense was fairly good last week against Washington, however the defense was sieve like and that’ll need to change against Cam Newton, the Panthers dual-threat quarterback. Saying this, Newton himself had his problems against Tampa Bay last week and threw two picks against just one touchdown with only 10 rushing yards mixed in. This game has all the makings of an offensive shoot-out, and I’m going with an upset for the home team. Saints 31, Panthers 35

Cleveland @ Cincinnati
Once again we have two teams yet to register a win, but there’s a clear disparity in the quality of these two sides. Cleveland have a decent defense but Brandon Weeden is simply not a capable NFL quarterback at this point whilst Andy Dalton has the potential to become a franchise player for the Bengals. If Dalton and A.J Green can hook up in the passing game the Bengals should able to generate enough offense to win this AFC north showdown. Browns 13, Bengals 27

Minnesota @ Indianapolis
Andrew Luck makes his first home start for Indie at the Lucas Oil Stadium, and he has a genuine shot at picking up victory number one against the Vikings. If Adrian Peterson is healthy then the Vikes may be able to control the clock, and he’s really the only star offensive player on either side. However I think Luck will have enough about him to put up enough points to win this one, even if Jared Allen is a constant pass rushing threat. Colts, just. Vikings 20, Colts 23

Houston @ Jacksonville
The Texans go on to road to face a rebuilding Jaguars team, who’ll hope Maurice Jones-Drew is fully up to speed following his off-season holdout, particularly now his back up Rashard Jennings is injured and unavailable for this game. Houston looks like the real deal, however, and it’s hard to look past a convincing victory for Gary Kubiak and his team. Texans 27, Jaguars 17

Oakland @ Miami
Neither of these teams impressed in the opening weekend, although the Raiders were the bigger disappointment as they were expected to give San Diego a competitive game on Monday Night Football. Carson Palmer looked OK though, and that’s a real positive sign going forward as Oakland would love to have a competent passing game to complement a potentially explosive running game centred around Darren McFadden. Expect the Raiders to overcome the Dolphins, whose offense just isn’t potent enough to put up points consistently in the NFL right now. Raiders 30, Dolphins 17

Arizona @ New England
Arizona had a feel good win over the Seahawks in week one with Kevin Kolb coming off the bench to lead a game winning drive, but the Patriots will be on a different plane of opposition entirely. Tom Brady at home almost always means one thing: Patriots win. This game should be no different, and Kolb should come crashing back to earth against an improved Pats D. Cardinals 19, Patriots 41

Tampa Bay @ New York Giants
These two teams head into this contrast after contrasting results in week one; the Buccaneers upset Carolina whilst the Giants didn’t perform in the seasons curtain raiser at home to Dallas. Expect Eli Manning to bounce back against an average Tampa defense, and Victor Cruz/Hakeem Nicks et al. to step up their game after a drop plagued performance against the Cowboys. Josh Freeman played well last week and managed the game well for Tampa Bay, but that “shouldn’t” be enough in New York against the Giants. Buccaneers 18, New York 27

Baltimore @ Philadelphia
Joe Flacco looked excellent against the Bengals last week whilst Michael Vick was atrocious against Cleveland on the road. If we’re in for a repeat performance there’s no question who wins this game, but it’s hard to imagine Vick being that bad again and the Eagles pass rush will give Flacco a much harder time than he experienced last week. The key is if the Eagles can stop Ray Rice, and force Flacco to win the game for the Ravens with an average receiving cast. I’m going with the Ravens just because I don’t trust Vick to be error free. Ravens 24, Eagles 17

Dallas @ Seattle
The last time Tony RomoSeahawks continue to bed in rookie Russell Wilson at QB. Added to the offensive weapons at Romo’s disposal and this one should be comfortable for the ‘boys. Cowboys 31, Seahawks 16

Washington @ St. Louis
Can Robert Griffin III repeat last weeks performance? It might not matter against the Rams, although they did nearly upset Detroit at Ford Field last week. Jeff Fisher has obviously had an immediate impact in St. Louis but with Washington riding the momentum last weeks upset in New Orleans created it’s difficult to envision them losing this one, providing RG III remains healthy. John Madden said in the week Griffin was like “a Tebow who could throw”; I prefer to compare him to Michael Vick with pocket presence. Redskins 23, Rams 17

New York Jets @ Pittsburgh
After last weeks offensive explosion against the Bills the Jets will face a much tougher task against a stout Steelers defense, although they don’t have the quality of Pittsburgh units from the past decade. Big Ben played well last week even in defeat, but he’ll need Mike Wallace at the peak of his game if he’s to test Darrell Revis and Antonio Cromartie at cornerback for New York. At this moment in time, I’d pick the Jets defense over the Steelers and for that reason I see the Jets improving to 2-0 while Pittsburgh slip to 0-2. Jets 17, Steelers 16

Tennessee @ San Diego
Phillip Rivers played well last week on MNF, and although the Titans have a competent defense they look set to struggle again this season if Chris Johnson can’t regain his 2010 form. Last week the Patriots shut down CJ and it doesn’t get any easier this week in San Diego against a promising Chargers team, especially with Jake Locker out injured. All signs point towards a San Diego home win. Titans 18, Chargers 25

I’ll return with my picks for Sunday and Monday night football later this evening, but for now that’s how I see this afternoons games unfolding. Enjoy your NFL Sunday!
 
 

Thoughts on Packers win over Bears

Last nights NFC north match up saw the Chicago Bears fall 23-10 at Lambeau Field to the Green Bay Packers, leaving both teams 1-1 two games into the season. Here’s what I took away from the game, and what it means for both teams going forward.

-The biggest play of the game was a fake field goal trick play which resulted in Green Bay’s reserve tight end Tom Crabtree rumbling into the end zone for a 27 yard touchdown. The score was just 3-0 at the time following a tight first quarter, where both team’s defenses came out firing but the Packers were able to bust the game open with a brave call from coach Mike McCarthy and never looked back.

-Matt Forte suffered a sprained ankle during the third quarter, and if the injury proves to keep him out for any length of time this loss becomes much worse for the Bears. Although they have Michael Bush, a very capable player, in reserve it’ll be a crushing blow to Lovie Smith if he loses his premier offensive player.

-Forte’s loss would be even more poignant if Jay Cutler continues to play like he did yesterday,  and not in week one against the Colts. Cutler was awful and threw four interceptions against what is generally considered a below average Packers defense, which doesn’t bode well going forward. Cutlers body language was equally poor and he was seen chewing out offensive lineman on the sidelines on multiple occasions. Cutler has an accomplished career to date, but it’s hard to imagine Rodgers, Tom Brady of Peyton Manning behaving in a similar manner and this attitude problem could hinder Cutler ever reaching the level of an elite NFL quarterback.

-Speaking of Rodgers, the All-Pro QB fared well despite being heavily pressured at times, particularly by Julius Peppers. Rodgers did get away with a couple of bad decisions, and was lucky to see an errant throw slip through linebacker Lance Briggs’ outstretched fingers in the first half. Nonetheless, Rodgers got the job done despite struggling compared to his often lofty standards.

-Clay Matthews was a monster, registering four sacks and also making countless plays in the running game. Chicago didn’t do a good job of containing Matthews, and at times let him rush the QB in one on one situations which is a huge no-no. Cutler was sacked six times in total, and wasn’t afforded nearly enough time to attack a suspect Pack secondary.

-Brandon Marshall was unable to haul in a pass in the first half and finished the game with just two receptions for 24 yards. Marshall did drop a certain touchdown in the third quarter, however, when he let a perfectly thrown pass hit the turf. At the time the score was just 13-0 and the deficit would have been more than halved. Unfortunately for the Bears it wasn’t to be, and they had to settle for a field goal.

My final thoughts on the game were that whilst Green Bay did manage to win the game it must be troubling for McCarthy and Rodgers that so far the offense hasn’t clicked, although when you take into consideration the calibre of the defenses they have faced they could be excused. The Packers made a conscious attempt to run the football more than usual and maybe that hints at a more balanced offensive gameplan this season. The Bears on the other hand will see this game as a missed opportunity thanks to some sloppy play in crucial situations. Allowing a fake field goal throw to score a touchdown is unforgivable, and the four interceptions from Cutler were also uncharacteristic for a team that prides itself on playing fundamentally sound football. Each team will consider their seasons hit and miss to this point and will be hoping Detroit slip up against the 49ers in San Francisco on Sunday night to avoid falling a game back in the division.

I’ll be back with a preview for all the other NFL games this weekend before Sunday afternoon, where I can hopefully build on my 9-7 predictions record so far and stay above .500.