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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Week 6 NFL Predictions: October 17, 2010

Picks for week 6.  Check here for the latest odds.

Miami Dolphins vs Green Bay Packers: MIA +3.5
This game has remained off the books all week as people waited to see if Rodgers would get the start.  He has returned to practice and is listed as probable for the game.  This is probably good news for those liking MIA because if Flynn was the starter we would see a much different number posted.  The Packers started the season as my choice for NFC North division winners and Super Bowl finalists.  One thing that can't be accounted for is injuries and GB looks like a mash unit right now.  Rodgers is returning from a concussion and his go-to throwing option Jermichael Finley is likely done for the season.  That should please Gregg Jennings because he threw a hissy fit on the sidelines this past week after his third straight game with only two catches. They already lost Ryan Grant and brought in league journeyman Julius Jones to help a non-existent running game.  GB would have had an edge rushing the passer in this game, but that is out the window now that Clay Mathews is listed as doubtful.  What all this means is that a number of would-be mismatches are suddenly nullified.  Each week GB's third down percentage, drive points, and ball control have gone down and their turnovers and penalties have gone up.

MIA is not about to light the world on fire, but they have a number of things going for them on Sunday.  Unlike GB, they are relatively healthy coming out of a bye week.  Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is anxious to put some pressure on Rodgers and aims for at least three sacks per game.  He loves to disrupt the QB and this is not good news for someone coming off a concussion and no running game to relieve the pressure.  If Channing Crowder returns from a groin injury things will be that much tougher for a struggling GB team.  MIA has been surprisingly good on third down offense and defense this season and remain a disciplined bunch.  I like them to win the game outright, but I love them with the points.  Prediction: Bank MIA +3.5.

Baltimore Ravens vs New England Patriots: BAL +3
Last week I played MIN +4.5 because of the Randy Moss factor.  I knew he would take pressure off of Peterson and Harvin and keep it a close game, but it was only effective for a half.  Leave it up to Favre to throw a pick 6 on the last drive to blow the cover.  In this matchup I expect Moss to have a similiar effect in for the Patriots offense.  BAL will no longer have to game plan for Moss and they can put more attention on pressuring Brady and wrapping up Welker.  NE have proved in the past that they can still put up points with a no-name receiver corp so I don't expect them to suddenly go in the tank because of the trade, but they won't make a seamless transition.  In fact, what caught my attention this week is the move they made to acquire Branch.  This could mean that they are not as confident in Edelman and Tate as I thought they were.   Regardless, with or without Moss BAL was going to have the advantage in the air this week.  Their no-name secondary has quietly answered all the questions we had entering the season and are playing great ball right now.  Look for NE to give Matt Light some help on Suggs with some double-teams, too.  The only thing NE do have going for them this week is that they are not turning the ball over and remain a well-coached, disciplined team.   Unfortunately that won't be enough to win them this game.   Their blowout win over MIA was thanks entirely to special teams and should have been closer than it was.

Usually I would not take a road team facing NE off of a bye.  The Pats traditionally come out and kill opponents after a week off.   However, that trend doesn't scare me given how BAL is playing this year.   Much like ATL, the Ravens lost a lot of close games in 2009.  I wasn't going to buy into them until they proved to me that they can rise up and win a few of the tough ones.  So far this year they have done that.  They took down a very good Jets team in week one and pulled out a gutsy win against the Steelers on the road.  I don't see many weaknesses on BAL right now.  They will have little trouble putting up points against a defense currently put together with scotch tape.  I'm not a Flacco fan per se, but the Pats will have trouble getting sustained pressure on him and it doesn't matter who you are in this league - if a QB gets time to scan the field against a porous secondary, he will make plays.  They should also dominate possession as they rank near the top of the league in third down offense and defense.  I expect BAL to win this one convincingly, but if it's close I love the underdogs points.  Prediction: Bank BAL +3

Atlanta Falcons vs Philadelphia Eagles: ATL +3
Most of the squares and the sharps were on SF last Sunday night because they expected them to get off the snide against a PHI team with Kevin Kolb at QB.  However, Kolb showed that with a full week of practice he can indeed throw the ball down field and make some plays.  This week things will not be as easy for the Eagles with perhaps the best NFC team coming to town.  PHI is 3-0 on the road, but 0-2 at home.  The chances of Vick playing are a long shot at this point which means Kolb will get his 2nd consecutive start.  There will be opportunities to make plays, but the question is can they sustain enough drives and hold onto the ball long enough?  ATL has a huge edge in those key categories and McCoy will have a much tougher time against a stout ATL run defense than he did in previous weeks.  PHI has been pretty bad on third down offense and defense this year so they need to rely even more on the big play.   PHI also rank near the bottom of the league in penalties which has killed their offensive drives and kept the defense from getting off the field.  They also just lost their pro bowl left tackle Jason Peters to surgery and will be replaced by the hugely inferior King Dunlap.   An offensive line that had major problems just got monumentally worse.

ATL's key to this game will be running the ball.  PHI lost their best run defender last week Broderik Bunkley and he is out of this game.  ATL already had a huge advantage on the ground heading into the game and it just got significantly better.  Their other good run defender Mike Patterson is also dinged up with back problems.   PHI also have big problems covering tight ends which means they will have more trouble with Tony G coming to town.  Samuel should return from a concussion this week, but with all the success the Falcons have running the ball, expect some big plays off of play action in the passing game.   ATL also get WR Michael Jenkins back this week.   There will also be big plays to made for ATL in special teams.  PHI have had trouble with starting field position all year and that won't change on Sunday.   This game might not be as close as people think.  Prediction: Bank ATL +3.

Indianapolis Colts vs Washington Redskins: IND -3
On the scoresheet, the Redskins may come away from last week's game looking good, but a closer look reveals an ugly situation.  WSH can thank the field goal upright and injuries to Mathews and Finley for their win.  They also got away with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Rodgers on the interception in overtime.  Don't expect the same breaks to go their way this week against the Colts.  WSH's biggest liability is against the pass and that isn't good with Peyton Manning up next.  Their defense can stop the run, but will that help them in this matchup?  The other key factor in defeating the Colts is an offensive running game and sustained drives.  Ryan Torian has given them a decent option in the backfield, but they are still near the bottom of the league.  They also rank very low on points off of drives of 60+ yards which is very bad news considering they will not have a special teams advantage in this game either. 

Meanwhile for the Colts, Peyton is coming off his worst statistical game of the year but they still managed to win by 10 points.  It isn't very often that he has two bad games in a row and given how he started the year he should have little trouble getting back on track with a full slate of healthy receiving options.  If they build a lead in the first half Mathis and Freeney will be able to tee off on Mcnabb.  We all saw how Mathews terrorized that offensive line in week 5 and WSH are still having big problems at both tackle spots.  The Colts are also one of the most disciplined teams in the league so they won't be beating themselves.   So far IND have been heavy road favorites all year so to get them at -3 is a steal.  WSH will be a trendy pick among the sharps because they are the home dog in a night game, but I'm not buying in.  Prediction: Bank IND -3.

New York Jets vs Denver Broncos: NYJ -3 
The New York Jets were a sheik pick heading into the season and I was on the bandwagon.  Five weeks into the season it's easy to see what all the hype was about.  I had serious questions about Sanchez after what I saw in the preseason and in the first game against BAL, but since then he's proven that he can make enough plays to put this team in a position to win.  Having said that, he needs to do it for more than a month before I'm a true believer.  Thankfully for him, the team around him play lights out football.   This week they go into Mile High to take on the high flying Kyle Orton.   Who knew he would be putting up the kind of numbers he is without Brandon Marshall?  He will eventually come back down to earth and he struggled last week against a good BAL defense and put up most of his numbers when the game was out of reach.   I expect him to struggle once again against an aggressive NY defense.  They have no running game whatsoever to take any pressure off him, and the defensive backs won't be biting on the play fakes like the Titans did two weeks ago. NY is not playing as well on third down defense as they would like, but without a running game it will be hard for DEN to take advantage.
However, this game will be won and lost on the line of scrimmage.   The Jets own huge advantages on both sides and it will be another big day for the best offensive line in the NFL.   NY will also have favorable field position because they will have a big edge in the return game.  To make matters worse for DEN, the Sanchez should have more than enough time to find his receivers while Orton is scrambling for his livelihood.  This one could get ugly as NY lays a beat-down on the wannabe-contenders in Colorado.  Prediction: Bank NYJ -3.
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