THIS EDITION: IN HONOR OF ADRIAN PETERSON!
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We provide the best and most educated National Football League picks based on relevant statistic and resources, along with: key injuries, Historical results, and accurate comparisons.
With thoughts and prayers across the NFL landscape sent towards the heart of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, we dedicate our weekly matchups to Peterson, who lost his two year old son Friday. God bless you Adrian, God bless you.
Thursday, October 10 8:25 PM ET – TV: NFL Network
N.Y. Giants 0-5 @ Chicago Bears 3-2
The New York Giants remain in flux with deficiencies on both sides of the ball. The running game has yet to get anything flowing smoothly, and running back David Wilson (Neck) will be out for a few weeks. Adding to the troubles on offense is a bruised and battered offensive line that hasn’t been able to keep quarterback Eli Manning upright. Manning has been in constant duress, forcing the issue by threading the needle, and the turnovers are occurring at an alarming rate. If the Giants are to turn things around, they’ll need better protection upfront, but without an effective running on the road in the “Windy City”, throwing the football 52 times like they did last week against Philadelphia won’t help Eli Manning and the Giants offense sustain drives against an opportunistic Bears defense that’s capable of creating turnovers. The Saints forced two fumbles from Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s hand, sacking him 3 times last week. The problem with New York’s D-line is not having pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul fully recovered from back surgery, a big reason why I don’t see them able to do what New Orleans did. If they get no pass-rush upfront early on, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell may elect to start manufacturing pressure by blitzing, and they better execute right. If not, Jay Cutler has some big targets to throw the football to with receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery lined up against a suspect Giants secondary. That’s where I expect the Bears offense to attack a discouraged Giants defense coming off a slim three day rest period. Pick: Bears 34, N.Y. Giants 20
Final Score: Bears (4-2) 27, N.Y. Giants (0-6) 21
Sunday, October 13
1:00 PM ET
Cincinnati Bengals 3-2 @ Buffalo Bills 2-3 – TV: CBS
In back-to-back weeks, the Bengals offense has struggled, but the defense and special teams has kept things in check. They held Tom Brady to only 197-yards, sacking him 4 times, and came up with the decisive interception on the final drive of the game in their 13-6 win over the Patriots. Cincinnati’s passing game has been where most of the struggles have come from. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s prime-target at receiver is A.J. Green. The only game they connected big was week 1 at Chicago, the receiver’s only 100-yard receiving game, and this is the perfect week for Dalton and Green to get back on the century-mark against a horrendous Bills pass-defense. Earlier this week, Bills head coach Doug Marrone declined to provide an updated timetable for quarterback E.J. Manuel’s (Sprained LCL) return, even though reports have him missing 6 to 8 weeks of action. To replace the injured Manuel, Buffalo signed Thaddeus Lewis off their practice-squad to get the go under center. Lewis does have some mobility to his arsenal, but I don’t expect him to be heaving the football down field with a rusty arm that hasn’t played since last season in week 17 as a member of the Browns. The bright side of things for Lewis is having a running game that can take the pressure off his back, but the negative factor is his running game will have to get him out of deep-water against a Bengals defense that can get after the quarterback and stop the run.
Pick: Bengals 27, Bills 17
Detroit Lions 3-2 @ Cleveland Browns 3-2 – TV: FOX
With Detroit hoping receiver Nate Burleson (Arm) can return by week 10, the Lions have been on the rumor-mill of potentially making a trade for a receiver that can accommodate Calvin Johnson. Johnson was missing in action due to a knee injury against Green Bay, and head coach Jim Schwartz told reporters that Johnson will be a game-time decision this Sunday. Detroit’s offense minus Johnson clearly takes away a vertical stretch from their passing game, and they’ll be facing a Browns defense that has recorded 18-sacks on the season, tied for 3rd best in all of football. Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo out of LSU seems to be improving and getting in tuned with the NFL game, a potential stud for Cleveland’s defense futuristically. The Browns have been like a roller-coaster in a stretch they’ve won three consecutive games. Brandon Weeden is back in at quarterback after Brian Hoyer (Knee) season came to an end last Thursday. Trent Richardson was traded, their best running back, and you would think they’d struggle, but they’re playing outstanding football. I don’t expect Weeden to do anything much lesser than Hoyer at quarterback throwing the football to the young and talented receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. I like Detroit’s chances to muster enough points on the road if Calvin Johnson’s knee heals enough to make him play at better than 80 percent, and from what I saw in Cleveland’s win last week, running backs with big-play capability have me eying in on Lions running back Reggie Bush to make something happen against a defense ranked 10th against the run, but susceptible to give up homerun plays. This will end up being a better game than advertised.
Pick: Lions 30, Browns 27
Oakland Raiders 2-3 @ Kansas City Chiefs 5-0 – TV: CBS
I like everything about what Kansas City has done thus far other than not being able to throw the ball downfield for bigger pass plays. Alex Smith’s performance against Tennessee wasn’t the best of his outings in 2013, but his team still won the game with a defensive touchdown, a solid running game behind Jamaal Charles, and a bunch of field goals from Ryan Succop. The offense is centralized around running back Jamaal Charles that gets an extreme amount of touches, and he’s been a vital receiver in the west coast system. Charles leads the team in receptions with 28, but I need to see more balls thrown towards receiver Dwayne Bowe, who only has 17-grabs on the season. Isn’t this a receiver that caught 15-touchdown passes in 2010, the first of back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving campaigns? Somebody turn the light on in his bedroom, total darkness isn’t going to ignite a spark. I like Kansas City to keep things rolling for the simple fact of Oakland’s offense not being able to exploit the Chiefs defense in the passing game. But, at some point Andy Reid needs to have a little more confidence in Alex Smith’s arm to take chances over the top.
Pick: Chiefs 26, Raiders 13
Carolina Panthers 1-3 @ Minnesota Vikings 1-3 -TV: FOX
Although Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier is holding off on an official announcement on who is going to start at quarterback, things are leaning more in the direction of Matt Cassel getting the go for the second consecutive game. Newly acquired Josh Freeman won’t be a candidate to start as he catches up on a new playbook. If I was in Frazier’s shoes, I’d see nothing in Christian Ponder in terms of improvement, nothing in the mentally-distraught Freeman, but I do know that Matt Cassel led an injured Tom Brady’s 2008 Patriots to an 11-5 season in his absence, and a 2010 Kansas City Chiefs team to the playoffs throwing 27-touchdown passes and only 7-interceptions. He also completed over 60 percent of his passes in London, helping the team earn their first victory of the season. Regardless whoever starts at quarterback, the Vikings offense will still feed the football to Adrian Peterson who put on a show overseas with a 60-yard touchdown run and 2-touchdowns, rushing for 140-yards against the Steelers. The Carolina defense has been stout against the run, ranked 3rd in the league, and I see them crowding the box, not respecting Cassel’s arm and getting burned. Frazier realizes the Gun-Shyness is down a few notches with Cassel throwing the football. That’s the matchup outlook, but with tears of emotion rolling down their faces, Peterson’s teammates will give everything in their hearts for him.
Pick: Vikings 30, Panthers 24
Pittsburgh Steelers 0-4 @ N.Y. Jets 3-2 – TV: CBS
Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson anchors the D-line along with Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison, a huge group that’s getting bench-press like pushes off the ball. Their play has helped the Jets defense on generating pressure (16-sacks) 5th in the league. The Jets defense has also been dynamite at stopping the run, ranked 2nd. The Steelers offense has been in disarray due to a non-existent running game. Not one running back on the Steelers offense has rushed for 100-yards this season, and Ben Roethlisberger is stuck in the fire behind a battered offensive line. If Pittsburgh has a chance in Jersey this weekend, they’ll need a good chunk of improvising plays from the feet of a 2008 version of Roethlisberger to escape the pressure the Jets defense will be brining all afternoon. Entering the warp-zone of confidence, I give two thumbs up to Geno Smith on his performance in Atlanta on Monday, big win for the kid. He managed the game with poise and didn’t turn the football over leading the Jets to victory. But, rookies usually get a taste of humble-pie, and a defensive coordinator like Pittsburgh’s Dick LeBeau will throw disguised blitz-packages at him like a kid that’s never seen a curve-ball. In the end, the Jets defense (getting my attention) prevails in a boxing match.
Pick: N.Y. Jets 19, Steelers 17
Philadelphia Eagles 2-3 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-4 – TV: FOX
Michael Vick (Hamstring) hinted that he could play this week if he had to, but he’s more of a 90 percent scratch this week. Nick Foles will get the start, a quarterback who led the Eagles on a game winning drive last year at Raymond James Stadium. The only positive shed of light for Greg Schiano’s Bucs has been the defense. They’ve only allowed 5-touchdown passes and have 6-interceptions. The negative side of the deal has been the offense. Receiver Vincent Jackson has yet to score, Doug Martin and the running game are only averaging 3.6-yards per carry, and Martin has only reached the endzone one time. You can pin-point Tampa Bay’s struggles of being a disgruntled organization, a big reason why the team shipped away quarterback Josh Freeman to Minnesota. But, mainly, the seat that coach Schiano is sitting on is burning hotter than lava, and his offense better get something going against a vulnerable Eagles defense. Schiano sees promise in Mike Glennon, Josh Freeman’s replacement at quarterback that has twelve more games to prove it, but I wonder if coach Schiano has the same time-frame?
Pick: Eagles 27, Buccaneers 20
Green Bay Packers 2-2 @ Baltimore Ravens 3-2 – TV: FOX
Clay Matthews (Broken Thumb) will be sidelined for multiple weeks, according to head coach Mike McCarthy. That’s a big boo-boo to Green Bay’s defense that’s lacking a pass-rush, and Baltimore’s offense got back to the basics in Miami last week, giving running back Ray Rice 27-carries, a game he found the endzone twice, helping The Ravens move over the .500 mark. Even with Rice facing more of challenge, he should get the same amount of touches against a Packers defense that’s been one of the top-units at stopping the run, allowing only 86-yards per game, ranked 5th in the league. The downside of Green Bay’s defense is being susceptible to the pass. The Ravens have the same issues in the secondary, allowing a slew of big-play passing touchdowns, the most in their conference. No Matthews, no fear-factor for Green Bay’s defense to install in the oppositions quarterbacks head, and I like Baltimore’s offensive line to buy Joe Flacco time in the pocket on passing downs. Aaron Rodgers should be able to spot favorable one-on-one matchups, but he’ll need to use his feet to make throws on the run from a QB-hungry Ravens defensive front that’s second in the league in sacks with 19. Terrell Suggs leads that group with 7 of them, and I see him playing with a motor running at 100 mph, enough to take advantage of a vulnerable Packers offensive line late in the game.
Pick: Ravens 34, Packers 31
St. Louis Rams 2-3 @ Houston Texans 2-3 – TV: FOX
The porous play of Texans quarterback Matt Schaub got a displeased Texans fan to show up at his house, criticizing him in his driveway. Things have gotten so bad that head coach Gary Kubiak had to do some soul-searching on whether or not to pull the plug on his starting quarterback. Schaub needs to play well, and he has the perfect matchup in his house to turn things around against a dismal Rams defense. His running game can help get him out of a slump, and that should be the game-plan for offensive coordinator Rick Dennison to attack a vulnerable against the run Rams defense, with a mixture of Arian Foster and Ben Tate to combine for about 35 touches. Foster (Thumb) has been limited in practice, but there’s no indication that he’ll miss any action this week. Without an effective running game, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford will be put in lots of passing downs, a downside-effect in this matchup for him going up against J.J. Watt and gang, that’ll take their frustrations out at Reliant Stadium after getting bamboozled last week out west.
Pick: Texans 31, Rams 17
4:05 PM ET
Jacksonville Jaguars 0-5 @ Denver Broncos 5-0 – TV: CBS
The more I watch Denver’s offense, the more I’m starting to wonder if I’m witnessing the greatest offense I’ve ever seen. You pick your poison against them. The 07 Patriots offense was a machine-like offense, but those were Autobots, the good version of cartoon-like hero’s. Looking at Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, Knowshon Moreno and the leader of a robotic-machine ran offense Peyton Manning, the more I think that I’m watching man vs. machine, or a bunch of Decepticons, an evil group trying to destroy everything in its path. In a robotic voice from the Transformers cartoon theme song – “The Broncos are Robots in disguise.”
Pick: Broncos 64, Jaguars 13
Tennessee Titans 3-2 @ Seattle Seahawks 4-1 – TV: CBS
The good news for Seattle’s offense with a banged up O-line is having a quarterback like Russell Wilson that can escape pressure, throwing on the run. Wilson has thrown more passes outside the pocket than any quarterback since his debut. The downside of this factor is having your quarterback play erratically on passing downs. Tennessee’s defense has been fairly consistent on rushing the passer, and I’d expect Wilson to be using his feet in this contest again. I’m not throwing any bitter-salt in Wilson’s drink, but he needs to be careful here. The Titans defense is a group that likes to hit, and they tackle well. Slide Wilson, slide, because your running back Marshawn Lynch (Hip) is hampered, even though he says he’ll suit up. Realistically, I don’t think Seattle will need anything sexy out of their offense. Why? With Jake Locker (Knee) expected to miss at least three more games for Tennessee, Ryan Fitzpatrick, a turnover-prone quarterback will get the feel of being under center with sounds of heckling 12th-Man Pacific Northwesterners screaming from dusk till dawn. You might want to bring some Tylenol to the game with you Mr. Fitzpatrick, it cures headaches.
Pick: Seahawks 31, Titans 13
4:25 PM ET
Arizona Cardinals 3-2 @ San Francisco 49ers 3-2 – TV: FOX
Readers take notice. Over the last two weeks the 49ers have outscored their opponents 69-14 with wins over the Rams and Texans. I know, I know, the offense doesn’t look as exotic as it did in week 1, but this is a 16 game season folks, and if you think the notches aren’t going to go up the ladder sometime soon, you better do some memory refreshing. Besides, what on earth are the Cardinals doing with Larry Fitzgerald? Didn’t they tag along Carson Palmer, a better QB than what they’ve had to get him the football? Fitzgerald (Hamstring) practiced fully on Friday, but is listed as questionable. All in all, I don’t like Arizona’s chances to play mistake-free football on offense, even if Fitzgerald plays.
Pick: 49ers 30, Cardinals 10
New Orleans Saints 5-0 @ New England Patriots 4-1 – TV: FOX
What appeared to be a game Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (Back) would be returning, is now leaning more towards him being absent again. Dr. James Andrews hasn’t cleared Gronkowski to play for a game the Patriots offense may need every bit of ammunition to keep pace with Drew Brees and the Saints prolific offense. I don’t know what kind of bug hit New England’s offense last week, but 6-points is something very un-Patriot like. It was the first time Tom Brady didn’t throw a touchdown pass in 52 games. That alone should tell you the Patriots offense isn’t the same bunch that can light up the sky through the aerial attack. Receiver Danny Amendola did return last week, caught 4-passes, but he needs to stay healthy the rest of the way to build chemistry with Brady. New Orleans’ offense presents lots of challenges for any defense, and tight end Jimmy Graham is a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. He can lineup anywhere on the field with his receiver like skills that can stretch defenses all over the place. That’s what New England’s lacking without Gronkowski, a tight end that puts so much emphasis on the linebackers, and backend of your defense. The key with Graham running multiple-routes is, if you have running backs like Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas that can catch out of the backfield, you have to shadow them as well, and that will leave Graham with a favorable one-on-one matchup downfield. Now, Bill Belichick may throw a screw-ball at me, he’s that much of genius coach, but I don’t like his defense with Vince Wilfork (Achilles) done for the season. With no pressure up the middle from Wilfork, you have to manufacture pressure by blitzing a Saints offense that’s one of the best on picking up the blitz.
Pick: Saints 34, Patriots 27
Sunday Night Football in America 8:30 PM ET – TV: NBC
Washington Redskins 1-3 @ Dallas Cowboys 2-3
Washington running back Alfred Morris (Ribs) will be in the starting lineup again this week, a runner that stifled the Dallas defense in last year’s divisional title game with 200-yards rushing. Difference is, the Cowboys defense will have their actual starters at linebacker with Sean Lee and gang trying to slow down Morris and the Redskins power-rushing attack. But, how Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan approach this game is the question here. Dallas’ defense has been one of the top units at stopping the run, but on the backend, they’ve been dazed and confused, giving up a good chunk of big passing plays. Robert Griffin III trounced Dallas’ defense on Thanksgiving in Dallas last season, and I think they’ll take shots at a suspect Dallas secondary. Why? The Cowboys are lacking a consistent pass-rush, nobody other than DeMarcus Ware sparks fear upfront to opposing offenses, and I think Griffin III will have time in the pocket to throw against a soft-zone schematic defense. On the flip side of things, minus Tony Romo’s “game costing interception” last week, his offensive line is playing tremendous, buying him time in the pocket, and he’s dissecting defenses. The Redskins defense has been porous against the pass, and I don’t think they’ll be able to pressure Romo without manufacturing pressure. So, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, a coordinator that will throw blitzes at quarterbacks, might not be able to get the same pressure on Romo as his unit did last year in the season finale. That’s where the difference is in this matchup, and I would expect Cowboys offensive coordinator Bill Callahan to keep throwing receivers Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris in the slot on passing downs, with Miles Austin (Hamstring) returning to the lineup and Dez Bryant on the outside. I sense another one of those Cowboys/Redskins thrillers.
Pick: Cowboys 38, Redskins 34
Monday Night Football, October 14 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
Indianapolis Colts 4-1 @ San Diego Chargers 2-3
The development of Colts second-year receiver T.Y. Hilton is giving quarterback Andrew Luck more options to exploit defenses with. Hilton is listed at 5 foot 9, 178-pounds, a small frame, but lighting-speedy and précised in his route-running. Hilton is coming off a 5-catch, 140-yard, 2-touchdown performance against Seattle, a team that sports the best secondary in all of football. This week, Hilton and Luck should get more opportunities to connect the dots against a dismal Chargers pass defense, ranked 27th against the pass. Their defense has also been dreadful in terms of creating turnovers, only 2 on the season. Clearly, San Diego rides on quarterback Philip Rivers’ arm with no running game in line, but they have enough options to keep pace with Indianapolis, offensively. Former Patriots running back Danny Woodhead has been a go-to target for Rivers out of the backfield, a plus for their offense as defenses will continue to key on veteran tight end Antonio Gates. Woodhead creates mismatches with his ability to line up in the slot, sneak out on screens, and every now and then, he’ll get some positive yardage as a runner. That’s a vital part on keeping opposing linebackers guessing, but San Diego’s offensive line has been inconsistent on protecting Rivers in the pocket, and I like Indianapolis’ defense to force him into a few mistakes to be the difference maker in a high scoring affair at Qualcomm Stadium.
Pick: Colts 34, Chargers 27
Bye: Atlanta Falcons 1-4, Miami Dolphins 3-2
You can follow Massimo Russo on Twitter @NFLMassimo and SilverandBlueReport.com @SilverBlueRpt