Four Games to Watch In Week 14

Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers – 12 CT

The Vikings are one win away from sweeping the NFC South, the best division in football. Getting the victory won’t be easy, but based on previous matchups, the Vikings should have the upper hand. The Vikings and Panthers have faced off twice in the past three seasons, and the Vikings won fairly easily both times. Last season, the Vikings sacked Cam Newton eight times and came away with three interceptions. Getting pressure on Newton will be the key to a Vikings victory. The Panthers have a record of 8-4 and still have a shot at the NFC South division crown. The Panthers could be a division winner, or fail to make the playoffs due to how competitive the NFC is this season. This is an important game for both teams. Vegas has the Vikings as 2.5 point favorites, and while I think that’s a lot on the road against a good team, I’ll still take them to cover.

Seattle Seahawks @ Jacksonville Jaguars – 3:25 CT

Lets take a moment to give the Jaguars some props. No one believed in them heading into the season, yet here they are at 8-4, just a half a game back from leading the AFC South. The Jaguars might have the best defense in the entire NFL, and that defense should give trouble to every single team. The question is if they can get enough offense being lead by Blake Bortles. On the other sideline, the Seahawks are coming off of a huge win against the Eagles. The Seahawks still have a shot at the NFC West, and last week they played their best game of the year. Russell Wilson is a legitimate MVP candidate, and looking like one of the five best QBs in the league. The Jaguars are favored by 2.5, and I really think this game is a toss up. Just because I don’t think either team deserves to be favored in this one, I’ll take the Seahawks.

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Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams – 3:25 CT

After suffering their first loss since week 2, the Eagles are facing another test this week as they square off against the Rams. In an unusual move, the Eagles stayed on the West Coast for the week and practiced in Anaheim. Meanwhile, the Rams are preparing for this game like it is an away game. Coach Sean McVay said that the Rams are working on the silent count because they anticipate that the Eagles fans will outnumber Rams fans. This is the most exciting game of the week, but one I’m very unsure about. How will the Eagles respond after their loss to the Seahawks? Will Jared Goff make the necessary plays to beat a good Eagles defense? Will the Rams feel like their playing a road game while at home? The Rams are favored by 2, but my gut tells me the Eagles win this one.

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers – 7:30 CT

One of the best rivalries in the NFL on Sunday night? Between two potential playoff teams? Sign me up. The Ravens have won three straight and are in position to get a wildcard spot in the playoffs. They just dismantled a solid Lions team 44-20, and the team as a whole seems to be trending in the right direction. For the Steelers, first thing that needs to be mentioned is Ryan Shazier, who suffered a spinal injury on Monday Night Football. There hasn’t been much in the way of updates on Shazier’s condition, but hopefully the injury he suffered is not too devastating. Back to the game, The Steelers are one of the best teams in the league, and they have won seven straight. Those wins haven’t always been pretty (they beat each of the Colts, Packers, and Bengals by just three points), but the Steelers are tied for best record in the league. The Steelers are 4.5 point favorites in Vegas, and I’ll take them to cover.

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 8

Oakland Raiders @ Buffalo Bills – 12 CT

Just when I thought the Raiders were having a bad year, they give an impressive performance and beat my Super Bowl favorite, the Kansas City Chiefs. Derek Carr looked fully healthy, and Amari Cooper stepped up and made big plays. The win over the Chiefs may have saved the Raiders season, but now they travel to the other side of the country to face off against the 4-2 Buffalo Bills. The Bills four wins have come against the Jets, Broncos, Falcons, and Buccaneers, but those wins seem less impressive with each coming week. The Buffalo defense is going to need to come out strong to hold the Raiders explosive offense to a minimum. This past game against the Buccaneers was the first time the Bills allowed an opponent to score more than 20 points, and if the Bills can keep the Raiders around that number they will be in a good position to win the game. Vegas has the Bills favored by 2.5, and I’d put my money on the Bills. It’s tough for a California team to travel all the way to Buffalo and play at noon. I expect the Bills to win by a touchdown.

Los Angeles Chargers @ New England Patriots – 12 CT

After starting the year 0-4, the Chargers have rebounded and won three straight. The Chargers should have been dead in the water at 0-4 in what many people thought was the toughest division in the NFL, but now they have a serious shot at making a run at the playoffs. Speaking of three straight victories, the Patriots have done the same. After a shaky start to the season, the Patriots are 5-2. Their defense looked atrocious in the beginning of the season, but on this three game win streak they’ve given up an average of less than 13 points per game. The Patriots are favored by 7, and that line seems pretty fair. I’ll take the Patriots to cover, but I would not be surprised to see the Chargers put up a good fight.

Houston Texans @ Seattle Seahawks – 3:05 CT

The Seahawks made news this week by signing Dwight Freeney, formerly one of the best pass rushers in the league. Freeney is unlikely to be a major contributor, but he might be able to give the Seahawks already tough defense a little boost. Last week, the Seahawks handled the Giants, and have a three game winning streak of their own. On the other sideline, Deshaun Watson is the Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite. Watson and the Texans are third in the NFL in points per game, but can they score on a menacing Seattle defense? The Seahawks are favored by 5.5. While I really like what Watson and the Houston offense has been doing, I think playing in Seattle is just too much to overcome. Seahawks cover.

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Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins – 3:25 CT

The Eagles have a solid lead in the NFC East, but don’t sleep on the Cowboys and Redskins as playoff contenders. After a confounding number of appeals, it appears once again as if Ezekiel Elliott will play out the season with the Cowboys. The Cowboys crushed the lousy 49ers last week, but they get a good test this week against the Redskins. While the Redskins don’t have a very impressive record (4-3), I believe they are better than their record indicates. The Redskins have only lost to the Eagles (twice) and Chiefs so far this season, two of the very best teams in the league. Dallas is favored in Washington by 2, but I’ll happily take Washington to win outright.

Four Games to Watch In Week 5

Carolina Panthers @ Detroit Lions – 12 CT

Despite the big win over New England last week, the story surrounding the Panthers right now is focused on Cam Newton’s comments toward a female reporter. Last week’s victory was impressive, but I’m still having a hard time believing in this Panthers team. Newton had a rough start to the season, but maybe the Patriots game will be a turning point for him. For the Lions, they traveled to Minnesota and squeaked by with a mostly unimpressive victory. The Lions defense looked good, but Stafford and the offense looked out of sorts. The Lions are favored to win by 2.5. Expect the Lions offense to get back on track and beat the Panthers by 3+ points.

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Arizona Cardinals @ Philadelphia Eagles – 12 CT

The Eagles enter the week with a 3-1 record, and a lot of NFL analysts are loving the. I’m a Carson Wentz fan, but are we sure the Eagles are actually good? The Eagles win over the Redskins in week 1 was impressive, but since then they’ve lost to the Chiefs (excusable), and then beat both the 0-4 Giants and Chargers by a combined 5 points. That doesn’t impress me much. Hopefully the Eagles prove me wrong, I want to see Wentz make the playoffs in his sophomore season. The visiting Cardinals are a very strange team. Sometimes Carson Palmer looks like he isn’t capable of throwing a football more than five yards, and other times he slings it like Brett Favre. The Eagles are favored by 6.5. While I think the Eagles could and should win this game, I think they will play down to the Cardinals level and narrowly get the victory by less than 6.5.

Seattle Seahawks @ Los Angeles Rams – 3:05 CT

Two of the most mysterious teams in the league, hopefully we will be able to learn something from this game. The Rams shockingly have one of the best offenses in the league after four weeks, can they keep it up against a good Seahawks defense? Can the Seahawks offensive line give Russell Wilson time to get the ball downfield? These two teams are battling to win the NFC West, so this is a big game. In Vegas, the game is a pick ’em, which seems about right. I really don’t have a good feel on how this game is going to go, but I’ll say the Seahawks win in a very close game.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Houston Texans – 7:30 CT

The Chiefs are the NFL’s last undefeated team, but they certainly didn’t look unbeatable last week on Monday Night Football. I think this speaks to the fact that parity in the NFL might be at an all time high this year, it seems like almost any team can win any given week. That said, the Chiefs are definitely a good football team, Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt are carrying the offense, and the defense is good as well. On the other hand, the Texans seemed to have figured it out. After a close loss to New England in week 3, the Texans destroyed the Titans 57-14. The Houston defense looks back, and on offense, DeShaun Watson looks like a franchise QB. The Chiefs are favored by just 1 point in this one. Expect a close game, but expect the Chief to cover.

NFL Season Preview: NFC

In less than a week, the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs will kick off the NFL season. It’s time to go over a quick preview of the upcoming season, this time covering the NFC. You can read the AFC preview here.

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NFC East:

Unlike the AFC East, the NFC East should be a very competitive division. Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles finished last in the division with a 7-9 record. Now that’s a good division. The Dallas Cowboys are the defending division champs, but the Ezekiel Elliott situation is still up in the air. It is possible that Elliott will be allowed to play the full season as he and the NFLPA take the NFL to court over his 6 game suspension. However, there has not been an announcement about that yet. It will also be interesting to see if Dak Prescott can build on a surprisingly good rookie year. The New York Giants have Odell Beckham Jr. and the newly acquired Brandon Marshall at the wide receiver position, giving them possibly the most dangerous receiving tandem in the league. And then there’s the Washington Redskins. Kirk Cousins will be playing for a new contract, and offseason addition Terrelle Pryor could prove to be an elite receiver. The Eagles added Alshon Jefferey, giving Carson Wentz a go-to receiver, and their defense should still make them a tough team. This is one tough division to predict. However the Elliott decision plays out will have a huge impact on the division.

Predictions:

  • New York Giants 10-6
  • Dallas Cowboys 9-6
  • Washington Redskins 9-6
  • Philadelphia Eagles 5-11

NFC North: 

Expect the Green Bay Packers to win the North for the sixth time in seven seasons. Aaron Rodgers is one of the best QBs the league has ever seen, and he is surrounded with talented weapons like Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and Martellus Bennett. The Packers defense might prove to be an issue, but the offense should make up for it. The Minnesota Vikings will begin the second year of the Sam Bradford era. People are excited for rookie running back Dalvin Cook, but the Vikings offensive line was atrocious last season. Matthew Stafford just became the highest paid player in NFL history after the Detroit Lions gave him a five year contract worth $135 million. Stafford lead the Lions to the playoffs last year, but the NFC should be tougher this year. The Chicago Bears are playing for the future, despite the fact that they gave Mike Glennon a huge contract to start until second overall pick Mitch Trubisky is ready to play.

Predictions:

  • Green Bay Packers 13-3
  • Minnesota Vikings 9-7
  • Detroit Lions 6-10
  • Chicago Bears 2-14

NFC South:

The Atlanta Falcons ran away with the division last year, and they were one half away from winning the Super Bowl. The biggest change the Falcons experienced was offensive coordinator Kyle Shannahan leaving to coach the 49ers. New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has never coached in the NFL before, but he’s had numerous gigs in college football. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a surprise last season, and this offseason they added DeSean Jackson. Last year they missed the playoffs at 9-7, and I think they’ll be battling for a playoff spot again this year. The New Orleans Saints traded away WR Brandin Cooks, and other WR Willie Snead is suspended the first 3 games of the season. However, never doubt Drew Brees, I expect the Saints to put up big numbers. The Saints also added Adrian Peterson, but he will be splitting time with Mark Ingram. The Carolina Panthers made the Super Bowl just two seasons ago, but last season was a major disappointment. If Cam Newton can stay healthy, it’s possible for the Panthers to have a bounce back year, but don’t expect a trip to the Super Bowl.

Predictions:

  • Atlanta Falcons 13-3
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6
  • New Orleans Saints 9-7
  • Carolina Panthers 7-9

NFC West:

The last division we will be previewing is the NFC West, and it should be an interesting one. Pete Carroll has lead the Seattle Seahawks to 5 consecutive seasons of 10 or more wins. Expect that streak to be extended to 6. The Seahawks defense is still one of the best in the league, and it was bolstered when they traded for DT Sheldon Richardson last week. Russell Wilson is a good QB, and he might have a new favorite target with Jimmy Graham being fully healthy for the first time in forever. The only team in the West that might give the Seahawks a run for their money is the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals had a very disappointing season last year, but they seem primed for a bounce back. QB Carson Palmer took a beating last year, but if he can preform decently, the defense should be able to carry the team. Plus, don’t forget about stud RB David Johnson. For the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers there has been a lot of change this offseason. Both teams have new head coaches. The Rams traded for Sammy Watkins, giving Jared Goff a go-to receiver. Meanwhile, the 49ers are rolling with journeyman Brian Hoyer at QB.

Predictions:

  • Seattle Seahawks 12-4
  • Arizona Cardinals 11-5
  • San Francisco 49ers 5-11
  • Los Angeles Rams 3-13

 

Predicted Playoff Seeding:

  1. Atlanta Falcons
  2. Green Bay Packers
  3. Seattle Seahawks
  4. New York Giants
  5. Arizona Cardinals
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Green Bay Packers are my pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this year, but this should be more closely contested than the AFC.