Every Friday, the National Football Post’s Matt Bowen picks every game on the NFL schedule.
Indianapolis (10-0) at Houston (5-5)
Current Line: Colts –3 ½
It is hard not to like Indy after they just went on the road and beat the Ravens playing a physical brand of football. Peyton Manning didn’t have his best game, but this team yet again found a way to win and stay on course for the No.1 seed come playoff time—and I don’t see that changing in Houston on Sunday. I have been all over the Texans train this season, but they still fail to make crucial conversions with big games on the line. I am taking Indy to continue its dominance over the Houston franchise.
Colts 27 Texans 20
Cleveland (1-9) at Cincinnati (7-3)
Current Line: Bengals -14
We all know the Bengals went to Oakland and suffered a fourth-quarter collapse that shocked anyone who follows the league, but I can’t see that happening again this Sunday against Brady Quinn and the Browns at home. I expect Mike Zimmer’s defense to pressure the Browns at the start of this game and control the Browns’ front seven when they take the ball on offense. I understand that Brady Quinn produced some numbers against an average defense in Detroit last week, but until he does it against a defense like Zimmer’s unit I can’t buy the Browns. Carson Palmer plays big enough and the Browns can’t find a way to score points. Take the Bengals.
Bengals 20 Browns 9
Chicago (4-6) at Minnesota (9-1)
Current Line: Vikings -11
It is hard to give the Bears a chance up at the Metrodome when they struggle under Ron Turner’s offense to get the ball down the field and they struggle to establish a running game. Yes, Jay Cutler can find ways to get Greg Olsen the ball against the Vikings’ Tampa 2 defense, but the Chicago secondary and front seven is no match for Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson. I see the Bears playing tougher than people think, but the Vikings make more plays in the second half to keep the Bears out of reach.
Vikings 24 Bears 10
Washington (3-7) at Philadelphia (6-4)
Current Line: Eagles -9
The ‘Skins will have a tough time heading into Philly with the lack of depth they have at the running back position. Look for the Eagles to bring pressure on defense and show QB Jason Campbell multiple looks leading to some turnovers and easy scoring opportunities. I liked what Greg Bache’s defense did last week in Washington’s 7-6 loss to Dallas, but playing against Philly’s playmakers will be another story on Sunday. I am taking the Birds, as McNabb has a big day in the vertical passing game.
Eagles 27 Redskins 10
Miami (5-5) at Buffalo (3-7)
Current Line: Dolphins -3
I can’t think of a team that wants to play Miami right now, especially after what Ricky Williams put on tape last week in their physical win over the Panthers. We had our first real T.O. sighting last week for the Bills, but I don’t like the Buffalo front seven in a matchup against the Miami running game. Ricky goes over 100 yards again as the Dolphins win in their typical fashion—grinding out another road win to stay in the wild-card discussion.
Dolphins 17 Bills 15
Arizona (7-3) at Tennessee (4-6)
Current Line: Titans -2
The Cardinals should have a definite advantage over the Titans when they match up against their secondary, but who wants to game plan Tennessee right now? The offense in Tennessee under Vince Young has become more creative and more productive due to his ability to handle movement passes, the option and—when Chris Johnson is involved—having multiple threats at once. I don’t know if the Titans can come all the way back from an 0-6 start to get into the postseason, but they push their winning streak to five with another one this Sunday at home. Take the Titans—even with Warner on the field.
Titans 24 Cardinals 20
Seattle (3-7) at St. Louis (1-9)
Current Line: Seahawks -3
The Rams have been much more competitive over the past month because they are running the offense through RB Steven Jackson, and I don’t see that changing at home versus a Seattle team that has been disappointing throughout the ’09 season. Matt Hasselbeck struggles on the road and the Rams find a way to get their second win of the season by scoring on special teams and riding Jackson in the second half. I am taking the Rams.
Rams 20 Seahawks 14
Tampa Bay (1-9) at Atlanta (5-5)
Current Line: Falcons –12
Against the Atlanta secondary, rookie QB Josh Freeman should find some throwing lanes, and I see him posting a good number by the end of the game on Sunday. But the Tampa defense is not going to be able to keep up with Matt Ryan and his various offensive weapons. TE Tony Gonzalez has a big day and catches two TDs in the Atlanta much-needed win. Go with the Falcons.
Falcons 27 Bucs 13
Carolina (4-6) at NY Jets (4-6)
Current Line: Jets -3
It is hard not to imagine a game plan from Rex Ryan that isn’t designed to go after QB Jake Delhomme, and although Carolina should be able to run the ball with some success against the Jets, it will come down to Delhomme’s ability to protect the ball with pressure in his face. Can he do it? I don’t think so. Expect the Jets to force turnovers and lean on their own running game to send the Panthers home with their seventh loss of the season. An ugly win, but a win the Jets have to get.
Jets 17 Panthers 13
Jacksonville (6-4) at San Francisco (4-6)
Current Line: Niners -3
Look for both the Jags and the Niners to have success running the football on Sunday, but this game comes down to quarterback play. Alex Smith has shown the ability to throw the ball down the field when his team is behind, but I still have to side with David Garrard until I see Smith play a complete game. Big games for both Frank Gore and Maurice Jones-Drew. But the Jags win yet another game and keep us interested in their playoff run.
Jags 24 Niners 20
Kansas City (3-7) at San Diego (7-3)
Current Line: Chargers -13 ½
The Chiefs were able to take advantage of a sloppy Pittsburgh team last Sunday, but they will face a team in San Diego that is playing efficient football on offense. The Bolts have found success in the running game, and as long that continues they will be a tough matchup for anyone in the AFC. Chris Chambers will make some plays in his return to San Diego, but Rivers has a big day in the play-action game and the Bolts win yet again.
Chargers 37 Chiefs 14
Pittsburgh (6-4) at Baltimore (5-5)
Current Line: Ravens –2 ½
I don’t see how Ben Roethlisberger sits this one out. This game will have major playoff implications and we can expect the same physical game we always see when the Steelers and Ravens match up. I can’t see either Joe Flacco or Big Ben producing much in the passing game, and first downs will be hard to come by. But somehow, the defense of either Baltimore or Pittsburgh will have to make a crucial stop in the fourth quarter and force that key turnover to set up their offense with a short field to win the game. Who does it? The Steelers do.
Steelers 16 Ravens 13
Monday Night Matchup
New England (7-3) at New Orleans (10-0)
Current Line: Saints -3
In the biggest Monday night game in some time, we have to look at the secondaries. Can Gregg Williams get some plays out of his banged-up secondary against Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker? Or, do the Pats have the players to stop Drew Brees and his multiple weapons. I expect the Saints to run the ball with good production on Monday night, but I still like Brady in this matchup. It was going to happen sooner or later, and I see the Saints going down for the first time on Monday night in a classic. Moss wins it in the fourth quarter for the Pats.
Patriots 34 Saints 29
Last week vs. the spread: 8-7-1
Overall vs. the spread: 42-37-3
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