Every Friday, the National Football Post’s Matt Bowen picks every game on the NFL schedule.
Cleveland (1-8) at Detroit (1-8)
Current Line: Lions -3 ½
It is hard for me to pick the Browns right now because they have been so anemic on offense and lack any big-play potential. Brady Quinn struggled in his return to the lineup on Monday, and although he will face a more manageable defense in Detroit, I don’t see how Cleveland can generate enough points to win on the road. There isn’t much to say about the Lions, but in a game like this, I will always lean towards the team that can make plays down the field—and Detroit has that in Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Take the Lions at home and expect more questions about Quinn’s future on Monday.
Lions 23 Browns 13
For a more in-depth analysis of Browns-Lions, check out this article from Bleacher Report.
Buffalo (3-6) at Jacksonville (5-4)
Current Line: Jags -8 ½
The Bills will conclude a rough week on the road in Jacksonville, along with a QB change under new head coach Perry Fewell, and I am interested to see how they respond without Dick Jauron on the sideline. I expect them to play on emotion alone in the first half, but with or without Jauron, the Buffalo front seven is not good against the run—and that is something the Jags will take advantage of. I want to see Buffalo play well and win under Fewell, but Maurice Jones-Drew will be too much. Jags keep the offensive game plan simple, and MJD goes well over the 100-yard mark on Sunday as the Jags continue to be a player in the postseason talk with another win.
Jags 27 Bills 20
Pittsburgh (6-3) at Kansas City (2-7)
Current Line: Steelers -10
I was surprised at how well the Bengals handled Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense last week at Heinz Field, but this Sunday is a complete mismatch. I don’t like Matt Cassel—without Dwayne Bowe—against the Pittsburgh defense, and I can’t see the Kansas City secondary being able to make plays against Big Ben or his weapons outside of the numbers. Look for Cassel to have a long day against Dick LeBeau’s zone pressure schemes, and I can’t see the Chiefs keeping this one competitive into the second half. Steelers roll on the road.
Steelers 31 Chiefs 7
Indianapolis (9-0) at Baltimore (5-4)
Current Line: Even
The issue for any team playing against Peyton Manning is his ability to move the ball down the field without a running game. The Ravens don’t match up well on the outside with Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon, and I expect Manning to try to go down the field early on Sunday. But, the Ravens will be able to move the ball against the Indy defense with Ray Rice, and if they can consistently block Dwight Freeney coming off the edge, they have a chance to pull the upset at home. In saying that, I think they do that and make some plays on Manning. Take the Ravens at home as they kick a fourth quarter field goal to send the Colts home with their first loss of the season.
Ravens 27 Colts 24
Atlanta (5-4) at NY Giants (5-4)
Current Line: Giants –6 ½
I am anxious to see the Giants play after the bye week to see if they have found a way to correct the mistakes that have added to their four-game losing streak—penalties, turnovers and red zone inefficiency—and I have to believe that a Tom Coughlin-coached team can find a way to play better football. In Atlanta, the loss of Michael Turner forces the majority of the game plan into the lap of QB Matt Ryan and I don’t like that against the Giants, who have had an extra week to prepare for this game. Winner takes a big step to the wild card and the loser finds themselves stuck in the mix of teams trying to get back in the race. I am taking the Giants, and I see Eli Manning playing like he did in September as the Giants begin a playoff push.
Giants 23 Falcons 17
San Francisco (4-5) at Green Bay (5-4)
Current Line: Packers -6 ½
If the Packers can continue to play a style of defensive football that continually gives Aaron Rodgers and his offense a short field to work with, they will be a dangerous matchup for anyone down the stretch of the regular season. But, can they do that against the Niners? Watching San Fran play last week, Alex Smith and the offense didn’t impress me, and I don’t like the secondary’s ability to match up with Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. This is another must win for the Pack, and I again see a defense under Dom Capers that dials up enough pressure to dictate the flow of the game for Smith. Take Green Bay at home in another second-half win.
Packers 19 Niners 10
Seattle (3-6) at Minnesota (8-1)
Current Line: Vikings -11
The reality about Seattle is starting to play out, and they are just not good enough on defense to win games right now. Beanie Wells of the Cards was able to get to the edge of the Seattle defense last week, and I expect more of the same with Adrian Peterson. Brett Favre has made this offense great, and with the emergence of Sidney Rice at WR, he has plenty of options to throw the ball down the field. I can’t see Seattle pulling the upset on the road and I am taking the Vikings to win—again. It is too easy for them right now.
Vikings 30 Seahawks 14
Washington (3-6) at Dallas (6-3)
Current Line: Cowboys -11
Washington was fun to watch last week because they attacked on defense, got to the quarterback and were able to establish a ball-control offense that wore down the Denver defense in the second half. If I am the ‘Skins, I watch the Cowboys tape from last week and continue to pressure Tony Romo and hope to force some turnovers to give Jason Campbell a short field to work with. But, in saying that, Dallas can play defense too, and I don’t see the ‘Skins being able to move the ball like they did last Sunday against this Dallas front seven. I am taking the Cowboys at home in the league’s best rivalry as Romo plays great in the fourth quarter.
Cowboys 27 ‘Skins 17
New Orleans (9-0) at Tampa Bay (1-8)
Current Line: Saints -11
We all know that New Orleans is struggling to win right now, but the bottom line is that they are still winning. They are seeing some injuries in the secondary and that is something that I expect Tampa rookie Josh Freeman to try and exploit early, but it won’t last. Drew Brees puts up some big numbers and the Saints take an interception back to the house in a game that turns the Saints way in the second half. I like the way Tampa is competing, but the Saints are too talented to lose this one.
Saints 34 Bucs 19
Arizona (6-3) at St. Louis (1-8)
Current Line: Cards -8
Arizona is a dangerous team because Beanie Wells is starting to mature as a rookie. When he produces, this offense has more options to work with and can force defenses to bring an eighth defender into the box—resulting in favorable matchups for Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. We can all agree that St. Louis played the Saints tough and Steven Jackson is still producing despite his team’s record, but I don’t see any way the Rams pull off the upset against Warner indoors. I am taking the Cards.
Cards 28 Rams 16
NY Jets (4-5) at New England (6-3)
Current Line: Pats -10
It is hard to go back and take anything from the first time these two teams played because they are at such different points as ball clubs right now. Tom Brady is playing at a much higher level, the deep ball is back in play and the offense in general is much more efficient than it was earlier in the season. But, just the opposite can be said about the Jets, who have lost five of six and are struggling as a defensive unit. I expect Rex Ryan to once again bring pressure, but the results to be different. Expect Brady to make some plays against the blitz and move the chains to hold off the Jets in the fourth quarter.
Pats 23 Jets 16
Cincinnati (7-2) at Oakland (2-7)
Current Line: Bengals -9 ½
Tom Cable had to sit JaMarcus Russell and go with Bruce Gradkowski, but against this Cincy defense it shouldn’t matter who is throwing the ball for the Raiders. Mike Zimmer’s unit is without question one of the best in the league, and they will force enough turnovers against Oakland that Carson Palmer will have some easy scoring opportunities to work with. Take the Bengals.
Bengals 27 Raiders 14
San Diego (6-3) at Denver (6-3)
Current Line: Bolts -3
Getting Kyle Orton back for the Broncos is huge, but what worries me is Mike Nolan’s defense, which has slipped after its fast start and can’t stop the run. Yes, Josh McDaniels' offense should be able to move the ball through the air against the Chargers, but if San Diego can establish a running game like they did last week in their win over Philly, they can control the clock and play Norv Turner’s style of football—keeping Orton and Brandon Marshall off of the field. I see a great AFC West game with Nate Kaeding winning it on a long field goal in the fourth quarter as the Chargers take over the West.
Chargers 30 Broncos 28
Philadelphia (5-4) at Chicago (4-5)
Current Line: Eagles -3
I like the Bears at home for the pure fact that the Eagles are struggling to score points in the red zone. Expect McNabb to put up big numbers against the Bears’ Tampa 2 defense, but just like last week, I see them stalling in the red zone, which will give Jay Cutler and the Bears offense a chance to win this game in the second half under the lights. Cutler will still force some passes, but he makes enough big plays to send home Joe Fortenbaugh and the Eagles with a loss.
Bears 24 Eagles 19
Monday Night Matchup
Tennessee (3-6) at Houston (5-4)
Current Line: Texans -4 ½
The Titans bandwagon is getting full again thanks to Chris Johnson, who is blowing up the league right now, and a defensive secondary that is making plays on the football. Monday night, however, is a game that Vince Young will have to win in the second half. And, despite another 100-yard night from C.J., Tennessee will have to come from behind, as the Titans secondary struggles to keep up with Andre Johnson, who I see having a big night. Is Young ready to get it done? I don’t see it happening, and the Texans continue to march toward a wild card spot.
Texans 30 Titans 27
Last week vs. the spread: 6-7-1
Overall vs. the spread: 34-30-2
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