Joe-Pinions: Sports

5 Nov 2010 – NFL Pick ’em, Week 9

Posted in Football (NFL) by txtmstrjoe on 05/11/2010

Picks for Week 9:

Buffalo Bills vs. Chicago Bears

The Bills are winless after seven games this year, but that elusive first win looks to get closer and closer.  They lost their last two games (road games against the Baltimore Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs) by a total of six points.  The Ravens were some pundits’ favorites to get to the Super Bowl, and the Chiefs are this year’s best over-achieving team with a great home field advantage; for the Bills to lose by just a field goal’s total in both games against very strong competition suggests that the Bills are on the ascendancy.

In contrast, the Chicago Bears started hot with three straight victories to open the season, only for them to cool off and end up losing three out of their next four games (including losses in their two most recent games).  Like Buffalo they’ve lost their last two games by just a field goal apiece, but unlike the Bills they lost at home to teams with less than stellar records on the road.

I see the Bills ending their losing streak at home this weekend.  The Bears’ defense is old and will have problems containing the Roscoe Parrish + Lee Evans wide receiver tandem as well as Buffalo’s running game, which is spearheaded by Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.  On the other side of the ball, the Bills’ front seven are likely salivating at the chance to tee off on Bears QB Jay Cutler.  The Bears’ O-line has been porous, likely because of offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s philosophy of only protecting with five men on the majority of snaps, which exposes Cutler to accumulating a ton of hits and enduring endless pressure for most of the game.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Atlanta Falcons were some people’s pick to emerge from the ultra-competitive NFC South as the division champion.  They are 5-2; they have yet to lose at home.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in contrast, were many people’s pick to finish at best in third spot, but most likely in stone cold dead last, in the NFC South.  They are also 5-2; they have yet to lose on the road.

So what happens when something has to give between two teams that look to be equally matched?

The safe play would be to pick the home team.  I’ll be daring, though, and go pick the up-and-coming BUCCANEERS.  For a young team, they look to have an unusual poise to them.  Not even fourth quarter deficits faze them much.  Young quarterback Josh Freeman is well on his way to establishing himself as potentially one of the best young field generals of his generation with his penchant for leading the Bucs back into fourth quarter-comeback after fourth quarter-comeback.  The defense may not be as nasty and intimidating as it used to be in its heyday under both Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden, but it’s still very good.  Meanwhile, some of Atlanta’s wins have not been particularly impressive.  They got lucky against the 49ers, and they barely eked out wins over the Saints and the Bengals. Against a team with its collective confidence and its level of play on the rise, luck will not be sufficient.

Seattle Seahawks vs. New York Giants

Seattle probably enjoys the most significant home field advantage in the entire NFL, with the possible exception of Kansas City.  When the partisan Qwest Field crowd is at full cry, most teams start to unravel at the seams.

The question for this week is:  Will the New York Giants react to the hostile atmosphere like most other teams, or will they rise above and deal Seattle its first home loss of the year?

The Giants have a fighting chance to win at Qwest Field.  They have a stifling, high-pressure defensive scheme that should keep the Seahawks offense choked up.  “Big Blue” might have the league’s best defensive line, especially when it comes to generating a pass rush.  And on offense, they are methodical, with Ahmad Bradshaw and big, bruising Brandon Jacobs churning out the ground yardage and steady tight end Kevin Boss and wideouts Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks receiving Eli Manning’s passes.  Of all these players, Manning might be the one most prone to succumbing to pressure, but if all he has to deal with is the Qwest Field crowd, he should be okay.

The GIANTS, then, with the win on the road, and the honor of putting the first blemish on Seattle’s home record in 2010.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Indianapolis Colts

The Eagles’ super-athletic quarterback Michael Vick returns to the starter’s spot after sitting out the last few weeks with an injury.  Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is also returning from injury (a severe concussion).  The Eagles’ offense will no doubt be boosted by these two players returning.

The Colts, on the other hand, face their second game of the rest of their season sans tight end Dallas Clark.  Clark is probably Peyton Manning’s favorite receiver, so Clark’s absence will be a big void.  The Colts did well to beat their division rival, the Houston Texans, in their first game without Clark.

Other than Michael Vick’s electric play, there really has been very little excitement to come from Philadelphia.  They are a team in transition, in search of a firm identity.  The quest to define themselves hasn’t been helped by the flux at the quarterback position, with the pendulum swinging from Kevin Kolb (head coach Andy Reid’s pick as starting QB from before the pre-season) to Vick seeming every couple of weeks.  Continuity at this critical position will help this team establish some kind of character.

The Colts, on the other hand, look to be gaining some kind of momentum despite Clark’s absence.  It’s not because they are suddenly better without him; they lose a big match-up advantage with Clark on the sidelines.  He’s too big for most defensive backs, and he’s too fast and agile for most linebackers.  He’s also got great instincts and that essential rapport with Peyton Manning, which is critical for the Colts’ offense.  So how are the Colts still improving despite such a big blow to their offensive roster?  Their defense is getting far less credit than it deserves for their play.  Particularly in critical situations such as crucial third downs, the Colts defense is one of the league’s best at forcing the opposition to cede position by punting.

The big question, then, is how will the Colts defense contain the damage that Michael Vick is capable of unleashing?  I expect the Colts to try to force Vick to beat them through the air; the Colts will likely clog the box with defenders and force Philadelphia to pass.  The irony is, Andy Reid would probably prefer to throw the ball anyway.

So, who wins this intriguing confrontation?  I’m going with the road team yet again.  The COLTS will keep Vick contained and force a couple of turnovers; Peyton Manning will do the rest.

NFL

Three of my four picks this week have the road team to beat the home team.  A somewhat risky approach to this week’s slate of games, perhaps, but I feel good about these picks.

I fully expect to increase my 68.4% percentage from my current 19-13 by the end of this Sunday.

What do you think?

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