Every Friday, the National Football Post’s Matt Bowen picks every game on the NFL schedule.
Jacksonville (4-4) at NY Jets (4-4)
Current Line: Jets -7
The issue I have had all season with the Jags is their lack of production outside of RB Maurice Jones-Drew, and I don’t expect that to change on Sunday. Look for MJD to get close to the 30-touch mark again and for the Jets—coming off of a bye week—to have plenty of new packages on defense to get to QB David Garrard on third downs and cause turnovers. I am taking the Jets at home, but it will be a physical battle up front with the Jets defense finding a way to slow down MJD in the fourth quarter.
Jets 17 Jags 13
Denver (6-2) at Washington (2-6)
Current Line: Broncos -3½
This week, we have to wonder where the ‘Skins are going to get points. With RB Clinton Portis out and Chris Cooley already on the shelf, Washington will have to rely on the kicking game and their defense—which was just run over by Michael Turner—to score points. Look for Denver to establish a running game and find a way to get Brandon Marshall involved in the vertical passing game to take control of this game in the second half and get back into the win column in DC.
Broncos 24 Redskins 7
Cincinnati (6-2) at Pittsburgh (6-2)
Current Line: Steelers -7
The matchup to watch is the Steelers’ No.1-ranked defense against the run vs. Bengals running back Cedric Benson, who is becoming a hot name in the MVP talk. The Bengals are winning games because they have established a ground game that enables QB Carson Palmer to work against man coverage on the outside, but I don’t see that happening in Pittsburgh. The Steelers contain Benson and force Palmer to face their zone pressures on third-and-long situations. Take the Steelers as Ben Roethlisberger leads two fourth-quarter drives to win a classic AFC North battle for first place.
Steelers 20 Bengals 10
Buffalo (3-5) at Tennessee (2-6)
Current Line: Titans -6½
The Titans have won two straight due to their secondary play and the game-breaking ability of RB Chris Johnson, sparked by the return of Vince Young to the lineup. Suddenly, they look like the Titans that we thought we would see in September. But, are they good enough to beat the Bills—a team that has been playing competitive football because of their ability to cause turnovers on defense? The Bills get Trent Edwards back in the lineup at QB, and I see Lee Evans having a big game on the road with a defense that picks off Vince Young twice. I am taking the Bills.
Bills 24 Titans 20
Detroit (1-7) at Minnesota (7-1)
Current Line: Vikings -17
The Vikings return to action and host a Lions team that can’t close out games. Rookie QB Matthew Stafford blew a 17-0 lead last week and ended up throwing five interceptions against an average Seattle secondary. This game has Adrian Peterson’s name written all over it, and I see the Lions making a game of it until Peterson starts breaking big runs in the second half for the Vikings to pull away. The only thing that could hurt the Vikings is turnovers, but Favre will protect the ball once again as the Vikings move to 8-1.
Vikings 37 Lions 14
New Orleans (8-0) at St. Louis (1-7)
Current Line: Saints -13½
The Saints head to St. Louis averaging almost 38 points per game, and I don’t see how Steve Spagnuolo’s Rams are going to slow this team down. On offense, the Rams will attempt to establish the ground game with Steven Jackson early, but they will not be able to keep pace with Drew Brees and the Saints offense. I see a game that could get out of hand in the second half and another win coming for New Orleans. They are just too good right now.
Saints 40 Rams 20
Atlanta (5-3) at Carolina (3-5)
Current Line: Falcons -1½
The Panthers are dangerous because they can run the ball on anyone right now, and as long as they get production from Williams or Stewart, they will have a chance to win this game at home in the second half. But, in a game that also features Michael Turner of Atlanta—who has returned to his 2008 form the last two weeks—I have to look at the quarterbacks, and in doing that, I have to side with Matt Ryan. Look for Ryan to make more plays than Panthers QB Jake Delhomme and the Falcons to move on to 6-3, ending any wild card hopes the Panthers had.
Falcons 21 Panthers 14
Tampa Bay (1-7) at Miami (3-5)
Current Line: Dolphins -10
The Bucs pulled off the upset last week behind rookie QB Josh Freeman, but they face a much more physical team in Miami this week. The Dolphins are the last team anyone wants to play right now because they are unconventional and they can attack on defense. I see Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams both producing big games and the Dolphins’ pressure packages shutting down any hopes of Freeman pulling off his second straight upset. Last week was a good story for Tampa, but Miami is too physical up front. I am taking the Dolphins.
Dolphins 27 Bucs 10
Kansas City (1-7) at Oakland (2-6)
Current Line: Raiders -1½
I liked seeing the Chiefs find a way to get back into the game last week against the Jags, and the addition of WR Chris Chambers gives Matt Cassel an explosive threat on the outside. With Larry Johnson now completely out of the picture, we get to see how this team responds. It is hard for me to pick Oakland because I don’t trust QB JaMarcus Russell enough to protect the football and make plays in crucial situations. And that is why I am picking the Chiefs to go to 1-0 in the Post L.J. era.
Chiefs 23 Raiders 16
Seattle (3-5) at Arizona (5-3)
Current Line: Cardinals -8½
Watching the way Kurt Warner carved up the Bears’ secondary last Sunday without Anquan Boldin shows how dangerous this Cardinals team is when Warner can protect the ball. And against the Seattle secondary, I expect more of the same. Seattle doesn’t have the talent on defense to match up with ‘Zona, and if Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower are involved in the game plan, this offense is one of the best in the league. I still see Seattle relying too much on Matt Hasselbeck with no running game to speak of. The Cards should take this one at home to take full command of the NFC West.
Cardinals 31 Seahawks 17
Philadelphia (5-3) at San Diego (5-3)
Current Line: Chargers -1½
As we saw last week, when the protection breaks down for Philly, the big play is gone. This Eagles offense isn’t built to drive the length of the field, and they must be solid in their blitz pickups to get DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin involved in the vertical passing game. The Chargers made some plays on defense last week in their win over the Giants, but the Philly weapons will be too much on Sunday in a game that turns into a shootout between Donovan McNabb and Philip Rivers. I am taking Philly—while NFP Fantasy Expert Joe Fortenbaugh takes home the tailgate MVP at Qualcomm Stadium.
Eagles 33 Chargers 30
Dallas (6-2) at Green Bay (4-4)
Current Line: Cowboys -3
It is easy to go with the Cowboys on the road. They have won four straight, Romo is playing better than any QB in the NFC East and the front seven is a mismatch for the Packers offensive line. But, even in saying that, I see a game of big plays, with Donald Driver and Greg Jennings producing after the catch against the Cowboys secondary—which is the only weak spot I see for this first-place Dallas team. The Packers get one more big play than the Cowboys, and yes, I am calling for the upset at Lambeau. The Packers are a desperate team right now, and that makes them dangerous. Go with Green Bay.
Packers 27 Cowboys 23
New England (6-2) at Indianapolis (8-0)
Current Line: Colts -3
The biggest game of the season takes place in Indy on Sunday night, and it is only fitting that we get to see Tom Brady go up against Peyton Manning in prime time. The Colts are rolling, but the fact that they are relying on Peyton Manning too much worries me. He threw 40 passes in the first half last week, and I once again see the Colts resorting to the passing game to beat the Pats, because Joseph Addai won’t get it done against New England. Randy Moss plays big against a banged-up Indy secondary and the Colts go down—and Brady beats Manning once again.
Patriots 24 Colts 17
Monday Night Matchup
Baltimore (4-4) at Cleveland (1-7)
Current Line: Ravens -11
Cleveland and Eric Mangini get a primetime game due to preseason scheduling, and despite the switch to Brady Quinn at QB, I don’t see them scoring enough points to compete with Joe Flacco and Ray Rice of Baltimore. Quinn will be forced to throw the ball downfield against the Ravens’ pressure to keep pace with Flacco, and after a couple of turnovers, I expect this game to get out of hand. I am taking the Ravens to move to 5-4 and stay in the wild-card hunt.
Ravens 31 Browns 6
Last week vs. the spread: 6-7
Overall vs. the spread: 28-24-1
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