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Monday, September 27, 2010

Week 4 NFL Predictions: October 03, 2010

UPDATE #2: PHI has dropped to -6 and IND is back down to -7.5.   Check here for the latest odds.  

Cincinnati Bengals vs Cleveland Browns: CIN -3

For the 2nd straight week CIN is a 3 point favorite on the road.  They are also undervalued for the 2nd straight week.  After adjusting for home field advantage, they should be closer to a touchdown favorite instead of a field goal. They beat CAR fairly easily because the Panthers are so bad, but they didn't make life easy on themselves.  The Bengals won ugly and won't get away with those kind of performances many times this season.

However, they remain my pick to win the AFC North and I like them to keep the winning trend alive vs a CLE team that plays hard, but can't pull out the wins. The Browns will once again have a hard time passing on a good CIN defense.  Neither team is very good on 3rd down this season, but CIN have enough weapons to overcome this while the Browns do not.   Both quarterbacks should have time to pass the ball in this game, but CLE can't sustain drives, turn the ball over, and continue to lose the ball possession battle.  Their only real advantage this week will be on kick coverage.   At the end of the day, CIN is proving they know how to win in this league.   The defense is carrying them while the offense plays catchup, but expect Palmer and company to improve as the year goes on.   CIN swept the 'battle of Ohio' last year and it won't be much different this season.  Prediction: Bank CIN.

San Francisco 49ers vs Atlanta Falcons: ATL -6.5

Most people were high on the 49ers coming into the season and after their performance on Monday night against the Saints, things were looking like they would eventually turn around.  But after getting completely owned in KC, there is no doubt that SF has dropped down everybody's power rankings.  I skipped this game because I expected them to have a tough time playing in a hostile environment and coming off a short week, but I also didn't anticipate them getting blown out. 

Now SF is in serious trouble.  This time they don't have the benefit of playing at home under the lights after a bad loss like they did against the Saints.  Now they must travel to ATL and I don't expect this game to be close.   They will have virtually no edge in any of the matchups on the field.   SF can't sustain drives, their running game is letting them down, they can't control the clock, they can't get to the passer, there are coaching/player issues, and there are turnovers galore.  QB Alex Smith on what went wrong against the Chiefs: "They made it tough for us to run the ball and overloaded the box. And once it got to a two- or three-score game, it became one-dimensional, and they got to pin their ears back."   Smith isn't helping anything because 3 of his 5 interceptions have come on 3rd down.  Expect more of the same against a red-hot ATL team that knows how to stop the run.

In stark contrast, about everything that could go right has for ATL.   They finally took the next step and won a huge game by taking out the Saints in OT.   The truth is, they should have won the game in regulation because they dominated play on both sides of the ball.   They are near the top of the league in several important categories and look for more long drives and ball possession on Sunday.   ATL is taking care of the football and Ryan should have plenty of time to find his receivers vs SF.   There is the danger of the team coming out flat after such a big win on the road, but SF isn't a team that can take advantage of that early.   When all is said and done ATL should win this game by double digits.  Prediction: Bank ATL.

Washington Redskins vs Philadelphia Eagles: PHI -6.5 
All week people will be focusing on Mcnabb vs Vick.  This is a great storyline that will sell a lot of papers and receive a lot of hits, but a closer look at this game reveals quite a few mismatches in PHI's favor.   Perhaps the most important will be the PHI passing game against the WSH passing defense.   A lot more was expected out of this defense this season, but so far they haven't shown up to play very often.   There is still time to turn it around, but losing to a rebuilding STL team on the road is embarrassing.  

Now WSH have the reward of going into a hostile environment and slowing down one of the NFL's hottest offenses.   They will have to pick their poison because if they want to load up on DB's in coverage, Vick and McCoy will shread them up the lanes.   Spying Vick will leave one on one mismatches elsewhere on the field. WSH should have a special teams advantage in this game, but they lost their punter to injury in STL.   I've already lost 3 picks this season thanks to special team play so I'm not about to overlook this aspect of the game, but WSH don't have the benefit of playing at home.  Any big plays they get in the return/coverage game won't give them the kind of momentum it would behind a home crowd.   Instead, WSH should be worrying about sustaining drives and coming away with points.   They are horrendous on 3rd down, can't control the clock, and Portis is going to the ground instead of taking hits to protect his bad hand.  Expect to see more of rookie Ryan Torain.   

Vick may get all the headlines after PHI win this game, but the real story should be their defense.   Mcnabb will be alone on an island trying to exercise his demons.  He'll be playing 11 players that have patiently waited a long time to see him in a game jersey instead of a red practice jersey.  The blitzes will be coming every other play and Mcnabb will wish he had half the escapability that Vick does.  They will also be praying that LT Williams is healthy enough to start.  If not, Mcnabb's blindside will be overloaded all day.   Prediction: Bank PHI.

Carolina Panthers vs New Orleans Saints: UNDER 45

As mentioned in my week 3 review, totals have not been kind to me during the regular season.  Having said that, this does not mean I am about to abandon ship on them.   As most people know, you can be on the right side of a play but it still might not work out.  Week 4 is no exception as I fully expect this game to go under the total.   If you have been watching CAR this year, you will know they have been atrocious on offense.   The sad thing for them is that switching from Moore to Clausen hasn't made much of a difference either way.  The bottom line is they can't get their running game going and now must go on the road to play against the Super Bowl champs.  CAR can't sustain drives, can't put up any points when they do get a chance, and turn the ball over left, right, and center.  There really isn't anything that CAR does well at the moment.   John Fox is a dead-man walking and the players know he's gone after this season.   Smith yelling at Clausen on the sidelines isn't going to help anything either.

For the Saints, I expect them to dominate this game, but they won't be putting up 40+ points.   I am very high on this team for obvious reasons, but losing Bush hurts them more than people might think.   He was a player who could be counted on to come up with key first downs or help change field position in a game.  Beyond that, he also helped Brees identify coverages because defenses would have to show their hand depending on where Bush lined up.   Now Thomas is banged up and suddenly the Saints are thin in the backfield.   They also have a kicker issue, which is exactly what you want to hear if you are playing the under.   The Saints also might come out a bit flat after losing a huge game against ATL in week 3.    They will still win the game, but it won't be a shootout.   45 is above the key number of 44 so I feel great about this pick and look forward to getting back on the winning side of totals.  Prediction: Bank UNDER.

Indianapolis Colts vs Jacksonville Jaguars: IND -7

This game came out with an overnight line at -7 and quickly moved up to -9 as all the money poured in on IND.   The public love to bet teams like IND, but the sharps also jumped on this spread.   However, most people woke up on Monday to see -8 or -9 so I didn't recommend the pick.   It has come back down to -7.5 though and I bought the half point and took them at -7.   Giving up more than this on the road is risky regardless of the opponent.   Last week was a great example of this because I included both BAL and NE in my teaser, but didn't play either in a straight bet.   As it turned out they both covered for the teaser, but not the vegas spread.   

If you analyze this game based on history there's no way you would lay 7 points on the road.   This has traditionally been a tough matchup for IND because JAX played stingy defense and controlled the clock with the run game.  You can throw all that out the window this year because JAX is scary bad in their secondary and Peyton is off to his best start since his record breaking season.  Garcon did some light practice on Monday so if he returns for this game JAX will have that much more trouble keeping IND off the scoreboard.

The only advantage JAX has on paper is the running game, but even that becomes irrelevant since MJD may not be as healthy as the team would lead you to believe. You won't find MJD on the injury report, but there have been several questions about his knee.  If JAX want to keep this close they will not only need him to be 100%, but they will also need him to be playing out of his mind.  Unfortunately for them MJD hasn't even scored a TD this season.  Garrard is playing well below his standards and if Jack Del Rio had another option at QB he would use it.   Much like John Fox and Tom Coughlin, Del Rio is on the hot seat and is likely coaching his last year in Florida.   Even if Garrard was playing well, he'd be in big trouble this week against Mathis and Freeney.   JAX gave up 6 sacks to PHI and expect more of the same when the Colts come to town.  DE Kampman was in the locker room with a boot on his ankle and the CB they took in the 2nd round has been put on the bench.  IND is hitting their stride and that's horrible news if you are a Jaguars fan.  Prediction: Bank IND.
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