Gabriel: Weekend preview

#17 Northern Illinois at UMass

Earlier in the week, I wrote that Northern doesn’t deserve their ranking because they haven’t played a good team yet. That trend continues with Northern going to UMass. UMass has won one game all year (Miami (Ohio)). Northern could play reserves all game and still win by 14-21 points.

Nevada at #16 Fresno

Fresno will remain undefeated as they host a 3-5 Nevada team. The win may push them up a few spots in the rankings which is undeserved.

Mississippi State at #14 South Carolina

It would not surprise me if Mississippi State knocks off South Carolina. Miss State has been playing better football lately and South Carolina is not as strong as they were earlier in the season. They were LUCKY to beat Missouri in overtime. South Carolina’s best defensive player, Jadeveon Clowney, has pretty much decided to take the year off. He shows flashes about twice a quarter.

#7 Miami at #3 Florida State

Years ago, I attended this game when I was working for the New York Giants and the atmosphere was so intense in pre-game I thought both teams might brawl. I don’t expect the same this Saturday. Florida State is just hitting stride, playing impressive football. Jameis Winston might just be the most talented quarterback in the country. Miami, on the other hand, has struggled the last few games against inferior opponents. I look for Florida State to win by at least 14.

#21 Michigan at #22 Michigan State

Since the beginning of the season, these teams have gone in opposite directions. Michigan State struggled early, but has gotten better with each game. Michigan on the other hand, peaked against Notre Dame, and has been average ever since. With the game being in East Lansing, I see State coming out on top.

#18 Oklahoma State at #15 Texas Tech

In reality, I could care less about this game. The good news is the loser falls out of the top 25. A month from now, I don’t think either team will be ranked. Both are average.

In the NFL, six clubs have byes this weekend. This is the lightest weekend on the schedule with only 13 games. There isn’t a standout game on the slate, but a few are interesting.

Kansas City at Buffalo

Through eight weeks of the 2013 season, KC is the only undefeated team in the NFL. Some say they haven’t played anyone. I don’t agree. They are playing mistake-free, physical football and are very well coached. While Buffalo is competitive, they don’t have enough talent to matchup against the Chiefs. The feel good story in Buffalo is how well QB Thad Lewis has played since first round pick E.J. Manuel went down with a knee injury. A few weeks ago, Lewis was on the practice squad. His played will earn him a multi-year deal. While he doesn’t have the contract yet, I’m sure it’s coming in the near future. He can be a perfect backup to Manuel, and the Bills will have their quarterback situation in good hands for years to come.

Atlanta at Carolina

Six weeks ago, many were thinking that Carolina would be the struggling team and Atlanta would be competing for the Division title. Carolina has been playing their best ball in the last three years. The next four games could make or break Carolina's season. After Atlanta, the Panthers travel to San Francisco, are home against New England, and then travel to Miami. If Carolina wants to be a playoff team, they have to win three out of those four games. Head Coach Ron Rivera was in trouble going into the season. A playoff berth will secure his job.

Philadelphia at Oakland

Both clubs have three wins, but the arrow is going up for Oakland and down for Philadelphia. The Raiders have shown improvement every week and play a physical brand of football. Going into the season, many thought the Raiders might not win four games. They may end up 8-8 at seasons end. The Eagles looked great in week 1 but no one knew what to expect from their offense. Clubs have figured out how to defend against them. Head coach Chip Kelly said, this week, that opponents aren’t doing anything different against them, the Eagles just aren’t executing their plays properly. I think it's a little bit of both.

The real problem in Philadelphia is not the offense, it’s the defense. They can’t stop teams when they have to. The Eagles have won three games, but their record is deceiving. They beat Washington in the opener and that’s when the "experts" thought Washington was going to be a good team. They have won only two games. They beat the Giants who at the time were winless, and they beat Tampa who has yet to win a game. The teams the Eagles have beaten have won a total of four games.

The Eagles defensive coaching staff is the least experienced in the NFL. The only coach on the defensive side of the ball with NFL experience is coordinator Bill Davis. All the position coaches are career college coaches. The Eagles will argue that defensive back coach John Lovett has NFL experience. Yes, he does, back in the early 1980’s for one year as a quality control coach. That hardly counts as NFL experience. I’m not saying that these men aren’t good coaches. For the most part, they are. The problem is, you can’t win in the NFL when your staff has no NFL experience. It’s a far different game than the college game.

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