Three Games to Watch In Week 13

Minnesota Vikings @ Atlanta Falcons – 12 CT

This is a battle between two teams that will probably make the playoffs. The Vikings have a commanding three game lead in the NFC North, and the Falcons are fighting with the Saints and Panthers to come out on top of the NFC South. The NFC South appears to be the best division in the NFL, with the Falcons, Saints, and Panthers all positioned to make the playoffs. This isn’t a must win game for the Falcons, but they have a brutal schedule coming up: Vikings,  Saints, at Buccaneers, at Saints, and Panthers. That’s rough. The Falcons need to win at least two of those games to have a shot at the playoffs, three wins and they are probably a lock. So, how do they matchup with the Vikings? Well, Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes has held Julio Jones to under 100 total yards in the last two games these teams have played each other in. The Falcons also have top cornerback Desmond Trufant out. If Rhodes can keep Jones under control, and Case Keenum and Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs can exploit Atlanta’s banged up secondary, it should be a victory for the Vikings. Atlanta is favored by two in what should be a really close game. I’ll take the Vikings to win this one.

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Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints – 3:25 CT

Speaking of the NFC South, here’s a game between the two top teams in the division. The Saints lost to the Rams last week, meaning their eight game winning streak came to an end. Can they rebound at home against a tough Panthers team? Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who is probably going to wind up winning Defensive Rookie of the Year, might play in this game but he is dealing with an ankle injury. For the Panthers, Greg Olsen is expected to miss the game with an injury. Olsen just recently came off of IR, but he reaggravated the injury in his first game back. The Saints are favored by 5 points, and while I think they eek out a victory, I think they fail to cover.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Seattle Seahawks – 7:25 CT

The Eagles are rolling right now, and Carson Wentz is looking like the MVP, but lets take a closer look at their schedule. Here is a list of the wins the Eagles have so far: the Redskins (twice), Giants, Chargers, Cardinals, Panthers, 49ers, Broncos, Cowboys, Bears. Besides the win over the Panthers, are any of them really that impressive? All of those teams (besides the Panthers) are at .500 or lower. The Eagles are one of the best teams in the NFL, no doubt about it, but it will be interesting to see how well they play against other really good teams. Even though the Seahawks are hampered by injuries, Seattle is a tough place to play. The Eagles will be tested on both sides of the ball this game. Vegas has the Eagles favored by 3.5 in this one, a line that started out at 6 in favor of the Eagles. I think this is a relatively close game, but the Eagles still cover on the road.

Four Games to Watch In Week 11

A little bit of a format shift this week. I’m really excited about the Rams-Vikings game so I wrote a lot about that one, while the discussion for the other games are pretty short.

Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota Vikings – 12 CT

Two 7-2 teams going at it, this should be a good one. The Vikings are once again rolling with Case Keenum at QB, and who can blame them? Keenum is coming off of a game where he threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. Even the most loyal Teddy Bridgewater fans have to admit that switching from Keenum to Bridgewater would be a huge risk at this point in the season. Keenum’s success is owed in large part to receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen who have been great. The chemistry Keenum has with those guys, particularly Thielen, is surprisingly great.

Keenum

Making a switch at QB could really tank the playoff chances for the Vikings. Bridgewater has not played in a meaningful football game since January 10, 2016. Do we expect him to not be rusty coming back off of that horrific injury? Would he have the same connection with the receivers that Keenum has? And I hate to say it, but are we absolutely sure that Bridgewater is better than Keenum? Because I’m not. Bridgewater was fine when he played, and he did have moments where he looked really good, but overall I did not find him overly impressive during his first two years in the league. With Keenum playing well, there is no reason to make the switch. Stick with Keenum and keep this thing rolling.

Meanwhile, the Rams continue to put up a lot of points, crushing the Texans 33-7 last week. The Rams have the most points scored in NFL through the first 10 weeks, they are both running and passing at an elite level. Todd Gurley is one of the best running backs in the league, getting him going early could be huge for the Rams. The Vikings got burned by the Redskins last week on a few plays, making it appear like the Rams have a good chance to put up some points. However, Everson Griffen is going to play in this one, and if he can get pressure on Goff, the Rams offense will be hard pressed to put up a lot of points. The Vikings are favored by 2.5, and I’ll take them in a close one.

Washington Redskins @ New Orleans Saints – 12 CT

The Saints might be the best team in the NFL. Seven straight victories is nothing to sneeze at. The Redskins have had a brutal schedule so far, and it doesn’t get any easier this week. I believe the 4-5 Redskins are a good team, but in a really good NFC they are going to need to start winning games soon. The Saints are favored by 7.5. I think the Saints win, but fail to cover.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys – 7:30 CT (Sunday Night Football)

The Cowboys struggled with Ezekiel Elliott out last week, and Dak Prescott got sacked eight times! The Cowboys are shuffling around their offensive line, but even if Prescott can stay upright, I don’t believe they can put up the points necessary to beat the Eagles. The Eagles are favored by 4.5, and I think they easily cover.

Atlanta Falcons @ Seattle Seahawks – 7:30 CT (Monday Night Football)

Losing Richard Sherman for the year is a big blow to the Seahawks, and rumor has it that hard hitting safety Kam Chancellor might miss the regular season. The Falcons easily handled the Cowboys last week, and another win this week would be huge for their playoff hopes. The Seahawks are favored by 3, but with the injuries they have, I’ll take the Falcons.

Four Games to Watch In Week 10

Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins – 12 CT

Good news for Vikings fans: Teddy Bridgewater is back on the active roster after a horrific knee injury over a year ago. Good news for Case Keenum fans: Keenum will be starting at least one more game. It’s a tough situation, who knows how Bridgewater will look coming back from injury? Keenum hasn’t played great, but he’s played well enough for the Vikings to be leading the NFC North. Beyond the QB controversy, it should be fun to watch Everson Griffen and the rest of the Vikings front seven get after the banged up Redskins line. The Redskins beat the Seahawks last week, and are a tough team. Though they’ve been banged up, it appears like they should be getting some of their starting players back from injury. The Vikings are favored in Vegas by 1.5. I’ll take the Vikes to cover, even in Washington.

Cardinals Rams Football

Los Angeles Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars – 12 CT

This isn’t a matchup I expected to be talking about in week 10, but here we are. After starting the season 0-4, the Chargers have clawed their way to a 3-5 record. Not great, but I’m not ready to write them off yet. The Jaguars are one of the surprise stories of the year so far, with a 5-3 record. The Jags have a serious shot at winning the AFC South, which would snap a nine season playoff drought. The Jaguars are an old school style team; defense and running the ball are their keys to success. Leonard Fournette is having a fantastic rookie season, but he was suspended last week for violating team rules. Hopefully he will get it figured out because he is a very exciting player to watch. The Jaguars are favored by 3.5, expect them to win by a touchdown.

New Orleans Saints @ Buffalo Bills – 12 CT

Another surprisingly good matchup. Think that the Jaguars have it bad that nine season playoff-less streak? The poor Bills haven’t made the playoffs since 1999! The Bills were 5-2 entering last week, and they managed to lose to the Jets on Thursday night. Thursday night games are tough for any team and weird things happen, but that must have been a heart breaker for Bills fans. On the other hand, the Saints have won six straight, and are doing it in some surprising ways: with a balanced offensive attack and solid defense. Drew Brees isn’t having one of his insane seasons statistically, but RBs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have stepped up in a major way and have been great. The Saints are favored by 3, and with the way they have been playing, how can you pick against them?

Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons – 4:25 CT

Last week, I said it looked like the Ezekiel Elliott suspension saga had finally ended and that he was suspended for good. I was wrong. A judge allowed Zeke to play, and he helped propel the Cowboys over the Chiefs. Now, Zeke is suspended. For what seems to be the hundredth time this season. I’m so sick and tired of this, it’s pretty ridiculous. It looks like Zeke is finally suspended for the full six and that he’ll miss this, but who knows at this point? The Falcons are struggling in a major way and are at 4-4. There’s something about them that makes me what to believe in them as a playoff team though. But if that’s the case, a win this week would be huge. Atlanta is favored by 3 at home, and I think this is the toughest line yet. How will the Cowboys play without Ezekiel Elliott? Can the Falcons turn their season around? I’m going with all of the favorites this week, I’ll take the Falcons to cover.

Four Games to Watch In Week 7

New Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers – 12 CT

The Aaron Rodgers injury looks like it will change the course of the NFC North, but I’m giving Brett Hundley one chance to surprise me. When Hundley filled in for Rodgers after he got hurt in the first quarter against the Vikings, his performance left a lot to be desired. That said, he was facing one of the best defenses in the league, and he did not have snaps with the first team. This week, Hundley should be prepared to play, and it helps he’s facing a less impressive defense (though the Saints defense scored three times last Sunday). For the Saints, they’ve won three straight in impressive fashion. Drew Brees and the rest of the offense have all the tools necessary to destroy the Packers depleted secondary. The Saints are favored in this one by 4.5. Green Bay is a tough place to play, and the last QB named Brett that the Packers started was a Hall of Famer, but I’ll take the Saints.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings

Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams – 12 CT

This is a London game, so not quite the typical home field advantage for the Rams. The Rams are perhaps the most surprising team in the league through six weeks with a 4-2 record. I keep waiting for the Rams to implode and go back to the bad team I was expecting them to be, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen. Rookie Head Coach Sean McVay should be an early front runner for Coach of the Year. On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals were bolstered by the addition of Adrian Peterson, who ran for 134 yards and 2 TDs in his debut. Maybe the addition of Peterson will be the thing that turns the Cardinals offense around. The Rams are favored in this one by 3.5, but I’ll take the Cardinals and the points because the game is in London and weird things happen in London games.

Atlanta Falcons @ New England Patriots – 7:30 CT

A rematch of last year’s Super Bowl brings a lot of intrigue, but maybe not quite as much as when the schedule was first released. The Falcons have dropped two straight (both to AFC East teams). Can the Patriots make it three straight? The Patriots are amazingly 4-2 despite some absolutely horrendous defense. The Patriots certainly don’t look like a very good team right now, but they’ve been finding a way to win games. Vegas has the Patriots favored by 3.5. This should be a shootout, and I’ll take the Falcons because the Patriots defense looks so weak.

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles – Monday, 7:30 CT

The Eagles have the best record in the league at the moment, and Carson Wentz is ascending to impressive heights. If the season ended today, Wentz might be the MVP. Not only are Wentz and the offense clicking, the Eagles defense looks really strong, particularly their front seven. Fletcher Cox is a force to reckoned with in the middle, and a handful for even the best offensive linemen in the league. The Eagles won the matchup with the Redskins in Washington the first week of the season, and at home they are 6 point favorites. Not so fast. Since that week one game, the Redskins have only lost the the Chiefs (my current pick for Super Bowl favorites), and even that game was competitive. In a wacky NFL season, I am fully expecting the Redskins to go into Philly and somehow pull off a victory. It’s only fitting with this bizarre NFL season.

Four Games to Watch In Week 6

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings – 12 CT

Aaron Rodgers lead the Packers on another game winning drive last week, beating the Cowboys in spectacular fashion. The Packers have been banged up to start the year, but they look as good as any team not named the Chiefs. Speaking of banged up, the Vikings have had to deal with injuries to Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook. Cook is out for the year, and Bradford is listed as questionable but it appears unlikely he will play in this game. On top of that, breakout WR Stefon Diggs may also be out with a groin injury, though he says he thinks he will play. The Packers are favored by 3 points in Minnesota, and I’m a little surprised they aren’t heavier favorites than that. That said, the Packers have allowed the second most sacks thus far, and Vikings DE Everson Griffin has six sacks already. If the Vikings can get to Rodgers, this will be a close game. I’ll take the Packers by 3, but expect a close game.

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Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints – 12 CT

The Lions came up short last week against the Panthers, and now they are one game back in the NFC North. The Lions are a good team, but their offense has left something to be desired early this season, which isn’t what you would expect. Surprisingly, Detroit’s defense has been the thing carrying them so far. The Saints are coming off of two straight wins after opening the season with two losses. After trading Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara should get more touches and their running plays won’t be as telegraphed. The Saints are favored by 4.5, which is surprising to me. Maybe Vegas expects the bye week to help the Saints, but I’m taking the Lions to win this game outright.

Los Angeles Rams @ Jacksonville Jaguars – 3:05 CT

Who would have thought that a game between the Rams and Jaguars would be one of the most interesting games to watch in week 6? But here we are, with both franchises at 3-2. The Jaguars pulled off a pretty shocking defeat of the Steelers last week in a game where Blake Bortles only threw one pass in the second half. Let me say that again, the Jaguars won a game where their QB threw one pass in the second half! That’s crazy. The Jaguars defense is elite, and second year cornerback Jalen Ramsey is a force to be reckoned with. Not to mention rookie RB Leonard Fournette who is second in rushing so far this year. This matchup features another great RB: Todd Gurley. Gurley has been great in both running the ball and in the passing game. For the Rams, they’re coming off of a loss to the Seahawks where Cooper Kupp dropped the game winning touchdown pass in the final seconds. Which of these surprising teams will improve to 4-2 on the season? Vegas favors the Jaguars by 2.5, and I’m picking them simply because they are playing at home. Who knows though, if the Rams can score on the Jaguars, Blake Bortles and the Jaguars offense is going to have a difficult time keeping up.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs – 3:25 CT

The Chiefs are the NFL’s last undefeated team, and they look to stay undefeated Sunday against Pittsburgh. The Chiefs have been consistent: good defense, solid play from Alex Smith, explosive plays from Tyreek Hill, and running the ball with league leading rusher Kareem Hunt. Things got dicey in the 4th quarter last week against Houston, but the Chiefs toughed out the win. While the Chiefs are the most consistent team in football right now, the Steelers might be one of the most inconsistent. The Steelers have beaten the Browns, Vikings, and Ravens, but have fallen to the Bears and Jaguars. The loss to the Jaguars came last week at home, which is pretty shocking as the Steelers are notorious for playing very well at home. Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions last week, and it’ll be on him to get the struggling offense turned around. The Chiefs are favored by 4.5, which seems low. I’ll take the Chiefs to cover.

Can Peterson and Ingram Coexist?

Adrian Peterson left his longtime team in Minnesota and joined the New Orleans Saints in the offseason. The move was a bit of a head scratcher: why would the Saints, who already have an explosive offense centered around passing and a talented running back in Mark Ingram, add an aging back? Peterson is not much of a pass catcher, and is known to be bad at pass blocking. Drew Brees has been running the Saints offense for 11 seasons now, and during his tenure the Saints have lead the league in passing yards per game six times. With Peterson’s noted weaknesses, he seems like a terrible fit.

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The Saints released an unofficial depth chart yesterday, and Peterson and Ingram were listed as co-starters at running back. Ingram will almost certainly get more total touches due to his catching ability, which really sets him apart from Peterson. It will be interesting to see how the Saints dish out touches for the two backs this season.

Last year, Ingram carried the ball 205 times and Tim Hightower (who is currently in training camp with the 49ers) got 133 attempts. In the eight seasons that Peterson played more than 10 games in Minnesota, he averaged 295 carries a season, almost as many as Ingram and Hightower got put together. To be fair, Peterson is 32 and the idea of him carrying his usual workload seems far fetched. It will be interesting to see how a future Hall of Famer deals with getting significantly less carries than he is used to.

Peterson adds another dimension to the Saints offense. Every time he touches the ball, there is still a chance that he breaks loose and scores. The fit may seem weird, but the Saints are only paying Peterson $3.5 million this year. Peterson is the 25th highest paid running back in the league. Trying to keep both Ingram and Peterson happy might be a difficult task, but the potential reward outweighs the risk.