Tag Archives: Bills

My NFL Picks Week 15: Patriots try to get revenge on the Broncos

The end of the regular season is quickly approaching as we enter Week 15, which begins with the Rams — who fired head coach Jeff Fisher earlier this week — heading to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. The NFC North-leading Lions visit the Giants in an early Sunday game, and the Patriots head to Denver to take on the Broncos in a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship game in the doubleheader game. Sunday night features the Buccaneers, who are in the hunt for a playoff spot, taking on the Cowboys, who are coming off their second loss of the season last week. I went 10-6 last week, bringing my record to 100-106 for the year. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick is in red

Thursday Night Football

Rams at Seahawks (-14.5) – The Rams have been the laughingstock of the league this week, firing Fisher after giving him an extension earlier in the season, and they’re not very good but 14.5 is a big spread. On a short week, there’s usually not a lot of offense in Thursday night games so the Seahawks will win the game but they won’t cover.

Saturday Night Football

Dolphins at Jets (+2.5) – With QB Ryan Tannehill suffering a sprained knee last week, the Dolphins are down to backup QB Matt Moore, who isn’t great but better than some of the backups in the league. The Jets are using QB Bryce Petty and will be without starting RB Matt Forte, who suffered a potentially season-ending injury on Sunday. The Forte injury gives RB Bilal Powell a chance to get the start. I don’t think the Jets will have enough offense to win. Dolphins win and cover.

Sunday 1PM games

Browns at Bills (-9.5) – The Browns continue to look for their first win to avoid going 0-16. With three games left, this could be their best remaining chance to get a win, but QB Robert Griffin III didn’t look good in his return to the field last week. WR Terrelle Pryor is the only Browns player on offense who’s been productive this season. I don’t see them getting the win in Buffalo, but I also don’t think they’ll lose by double digits so I”ll take the Browns with the points, though they’ll be 0-14 when the game is over.
Packers at Bears (+6.5) – The Packers need to win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive, while the Bears are just playing out the season. The Bears will get WR Alshon Jeffery back from his four-game suspension and RB Jordan Howard has been having a good season, but I don’t think the Bears have enough playmakers on offense to beat the Packers, who have started to play well in recent weeks behind QB Aaron Rodgers. Packers cover.
Steelers at Bengals (+3.5) – The Bengals have won two in a row — last week’s win came against the Browns — but they’re having a disappointing season at 5-7-1. The Steelers are on a four-game winning streak, and I continue that to continue behind the offense of QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown. I’m taking the Steelers.
Lions at Giants (-4.5) – This battle of playoff contenders sees Lions QB Matthew Stafford going into the game with an injured finger, which won’t help him find success against a Giants defense that has looked good in recent games. I think the Giants win the game and cover to stay in the Wild Card chase.
Titans at Chiefs (-5.5) – The Titans need to keep winning if they want to win the AFC South, but that won’t be easy this week against a tough Chiefs defense. The Chiefs beat the Raiders by eight last Thursday and now have extra rest before taking on the Titans at home. I expect the Chiefs to win the game and cover.
Colts at Vikings (-4.5) – The Colts are coming off a loss to the Texans that put their playoff hopes on life support. I think they’ll bounce back to keep this game close, but I think the Vikings defense will ultimately be enough to win the game to stay in the playoff race. I’ll take the Colts with the points, though.
Eagles at Ravens (-6.5) The Ravens had a disappointing game against the Patriots on Monday night, but the Eagles aren’t the Patriots. The Eagles have lost four in a row and I don’t expect them to be able to score much against a Ravens defense that is among the best in the league. I’ll give the points.
Jaguars at Texans (-6.5) – The Jaguars are looking for their third win of the season, but that might be a tough task on the road against a Texans team with a good defense led by DE Jadeveon Clowney. Texans QB Brock Osweiler isn’t very good so I’m not confident about giving so many points with the Texans, but I’m going to do it because the Jaguars aren’t good.

Sunday 4PM games

49ers at Falcons (-13.5)The Falcons put up 42 points on the Rams last week — without WR Julio Jones — and now they get the 49ers, who will have to travel across the country for the game. I normally don’t like taking the favorite with such a big spread, but the Falcons offense can put up points and the 49ers aren’t a good team so I’ll give the 13.5 points.
Saints at Cardinals (-2.5) – Two of the more disappointing teams in the league meet in this contest. I believe QB Drew Brees and the Saints offense can do what they need to win this game against a Cardinals team that has a decent defense. Since I think the Saints can win outright, I’ll take the points.
Patriots at Broncos (+3.5) – This is a battle between one of the league’s best offenses in the Patriots against the Broncos’ strong defense. We saw a similar matchup on Monday night when the Patriots took on the Ravens and won that game convincingly. Despite having to travel to Denver on a short week,I expect QB Tom Brady and the Patriots to win this game and cover the 3.5 points.
Raiders at Chargers (+2.5) – Two teams that could be moving to new cities in the coming years meet in what could be one of the Chargers’ final home games in San Diego. The Raiders are definitely the better team and I expect QB David Carr to bounce back from a subpar performance against the Chiefs last week to lead the Raiders to their 11th win of the season.

Sunday Night Football

Buccaneers at Cowboys (-7.5) – The Bucs are looking for their first six-game winning streak in franchise history, but it’ll be a tough task for QB Jameis Winston and the rest of the team to do that against the Cowboys, who still have the league’s best record after losing to the Giants on Sunday night. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott performance hasn’t been as prolific in his most recent games as it has been for much of the season, but I still think the Cowboys will be able to win the game. I don’t, however, think they’ll cover so I’ll take the Bucs with the points.

Monday Night Football

Panthers at Redskins (-4.5) – The Redskins are looking to stay in the NFC Wild Card race by picking up a win at home on Monday night. I think the Redskins have just enough to cover the spread so I’ll take them to win.

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My NFL Picks Week 14: Cowboys have a chance to clinch the NFC East

The Thursday Night Football games are largely considered to consist of bad football, often with teams that are in the game only to get in their required primetime game for the season. This week, the Thursday night contest could be one of the best games of the week when the two best teams in the AFC West face off with the Raiders traveling to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. Other games of note include the Texans at Colts in a key AFC South battle, the Cowboys at the Giants on Sunday night in a potential division clincher for Dallas, and a Monday night game between division leaders in Foxboro when the Patriots host the Ravens. The byes are done so we have 16 games each week for the remainder of the season. I went 6-9 last week, bringing my record to 90-100 for the year. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick is in red

Thursday Night Football

Raiders at Chiefs (-3.5)

Sunday 1PM games

Steelers at Bills (+1.5)
Bears at Lions (-8.5)
Bengals at Browns (+6.5)
Broncos at Titans (+0.5)
Texans at Colts (-6.5)
Cardinals at Dolphins (-1.5)
Vikings at Jaguars (+3.5)
Redskins at Eagles (+0.5)
Chargers at Panthers (-1.5)

Sunday 4PM games

Jets at 49ers (-2.5)
Falcons at Rams (+6.5)
Seahawks at Packers (+2.5)
Saints at Buccaneers (-2.5)

Sunday Night Football

Cowboys at Giants (+2.5)

Monday Night Football

Ravens at Patriots (-8.5)

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NFL Quarterly Report: Are the Cowboys and Raiders the best teams in the league?

All 32 NFL teams have now played 12 games, which means we’re three-quarters through the regular season. With just 25% of the season remaining, the playoff picture is becoming much clearer. It appears as if the Cowboys are continuing to coast to the top seed in the NFC as they are the first team to clinch a playoff spot, while the Patriots likely won’t be as dominant in the postseason as people thought they could be earlier on, and the Raiders could be heading toward the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

The Patriots took a hit a couple weeks ago when TE Rob Gronkowski suffered a back injury that required surgery and will sideline him for the rest of the season. While the Patriots are still the best team in the AFC East and will make the playoffs, their chances of making a deep postseason run are not as good as they would have been if they had Gronkowski, who is QB Tom Brady’s favorite target and best receiver. TE Martellus Bennett has not yet stepped up in Gronk’s absence. For the rest of the division, the Dolphins are currently in second place at 7-5 but coming off a bad loss to the Ravens to end their winning streak. At 6-6, the Bills are in third place but gave up 29 unanswered points on Sunday to lose at the Raiders. The Jets, meanwhile, are playing out the string for the final four games of what has been a disappointing season. Judging by how their defense played on Monday night, it could be a long four games for the Jets. The Patriots are likely going to be the only playoff team coming out of the division.

Things are going better for the first-place team in the NFC East as the Cowboys have won 11 in a row behind QB Dak Prescott after dropping their season opener. At 11-1, they have clinched a playoff spot, the only team to do so to this point, and are the front-runners to land home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Giants lost a tough game to the Steelers this weekend, with QB Eli Manning not playing well, to end their six-game win streak and put them at 8-4, good for second place. They will continue to try to hold off the 6-5-1 Redskins for second place in the division and a potential Wild Card berth. The Giants currently hold the No. 5 seed in the conference, while the Redskins have fallen out of the NFC’s second Wild Card but are still in the hunt. The Eagles continue their downward spiral into last place in the division at 5-7, having lost their last three games and five of their last six. QB Carson Wentz has regressed significantly from his hot start and the team is now likely out of playoff contention.

The Ravens and Steelers are tied at 7-5, though the Ravens lead the AFC North due to tiebreakers. Baltimore’s convincing Week 13 win over the Dolphins was the team’s second straight win, and the Steelers have won three in a row but are on the outside of the playoff race. The Bengals picked up their first win since October on Sunday, but it won’t do them much good at this point as they sit at 4-7-1. The only thing keeping them out of last place in the division is the Browns, who are still winless at 0-12. After their bye in Week 13, they host the Bengals this week as they look to finally get in the win column. It appears as though QB Robert Griffin III could get the start after missing much of the season with an injury. Will that be what the Browns need to win a game? If not, their final three games are at the Bills, hosting the Chargers and visiting the Steelers. I think San Diego is the best shot for the Browns to pick up a win but it’s obviously not a certainty.

The Lions are in control of the NFC North, with an 8-4 record and two-game lead over the Vikings and Packers, who are each 6-6. The Lions appear to have the advantage in the division, facing the lowly Bears this week while the Vikings battle the Jaguars, which should be a winnable game, and the Packers face a stiff test against the Seahawks. If the Packers can gain a game on the Lions in the next couple of weeks, Week 17 could feature a win-and-in game for the division title with the Lions hosting the Packers. Winning the division will be important because there will likely be just one playoff team coming out of the NFC North. And it won’t be the Bears, who are 3-9, with their most recent win coming at the expense of the 1-11 49ers.

The AFC South is up for grabs after the Texans dropped their third straight this week, losing a snowy contest at Lambeau Field, putting them in a dead heat with the Titans, who had their bye this week, and the Colts at 6-6; the Texans, who are a perfect 3-0 in the division, hold the tiebreakers and are technically in first pace. The Texans’ offseason signing of QB Brock Osweiler is looking worse every week as he has not shown much improvement as the season as progressed. Houston’s defense, still without DE J.J. Watt of course, will have to continue to play well enough to keep scoring low and the Texans offense in games if they want to have a chance to repeat as division champs. An 8-8 record could win this division with the way things are looking right now. And the Jaguars are on their way to a last-place finish as the breakout season that many predicted for QB Blake Bortles and the Jags offense has not materialized. The Texans play the Titans in Nashville in Week 17, which could be a winner-take-all battle for the division title.

The NFC South has turned into a good two-team race between the Falcons and Buccaneers as the former suffered a tough loss to the Chiefs in Week 13 and the latter continued their winning ways, winning their fourth straight game to tie the Falcons at 7-5. The Falcons currently hold the tiebreaker over Tampa and technically lead the division, but the Bucs have a hold on the NFC’s second Wild Card. The Saints, at 5-7, hold third place in the division, but the biggest surprise in the South is the 4-8 Panthers, who were blown out by the Seahawks on Sunday night. After making it to Super Bowl 50 last season, the Panthers have really dropped off this year with QB Cam Newton not able to live up to expectations that were set for him after his MVP campaign in 2015. Back at the top of the division, winning the division is obviously important to get a home playoff game, but it may not be the only way to get into the postseason as one of the Wild Cards could come out of the NFC South.

The Raiders’ successful season continues after coming back to beat the BIlls in Week 13 to improve their record to 10-2, putting them at the top of the AFC. With Gronkowski out for the Patriots, the Raiders may be able to make a deep playoff run, possibly even making it to Super Bowl LI in Houston. Oakland isn’t the only good team in the AFC West, though, with the Chiefs at 9-3 and the Broncos right behind them at 8-4. I believe both of the AFC’s Wild Card teams will come out of the West, meaning all three of those teams will make the playoffs. The division winner will likely get one of the top two seeds in the conference and the important first-round bye that comes along with that. The Raiders visit the Chiefs on Thursday night, which could be a key game in determining the division champion. The Chargers, who aren’t having a bad season but have given up leads late to lose some games, round out the division with a 5-7 record heading into the last quarter of the regular season.

The NFC West race is all but over, with the 8-3-1 Seahawks holding a three-game lead over the 5-6-1 Cardinals, who picked up a surprising win against the Redskins in Week 13. The Rams, who recently gave head coach Jeff Fisher a contract extension, sit at 4-8 and the 49ers are just 1-11 after losing to the Bears on Sunday. The Cardinals’ lack of success is sort of surprising but people weren’t expecting much out of the Rams or 49ers this season. The Seahawks are currently the No. 2 seed in the NFC so they could be on their way to a first-round bye in the playoffs as QB Russell Wilson appears to be as healthy as he has been all season at the best time for that to happen.

With four weeks left in the regular season, just one team has punched its ticket into the postseason, but others are well on their way to doing that and will clinch playoff berths in the next week or two. At the bottom of the league, the most interesting storyline is whether the Browns will win a game. They have only four more chances to avoid becoming the second team in NFL history to finish a season 0-16.

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My NFL Picks Week 13: Cowboys-Vikings opens the week as December begins

Having Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror is a sign that we are entering the homestretch of the NFL’s regular season. Week 13 begins with the Cowboys, the NFC’s best team, taking on the Vikings, who are hanging on to their fading playoff hopes in the conference. Other notable games this week include the Chiefs visiting the Falcons in an interconference matchup of potential playoff teams and the Bills heading to he West Coast to take on the Raiders. The Sunday night game features two teams coming off tough Week 12 losses with the Panthers at the Seahawks. The Monday nighter ends the week with two teams having disappointing seasons as the Jets host the Colts. This week features the last byes of the season, as the Titans and the Browns — who have still not won a game — get the week off. I went 10-6 last week, bringing my record to 84-91 for the year. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick is in red

Byes: Browns, Titans

Thursday Night Football

Cowboys at Vikings (+3.5) – Cowboys QB Dak Prescott faces one of the tougher challenges of his rookie season when he goes against a Vikings defense that is one of the better squads in the league. I think the Cowboys offense will still easily be able to outscore the Vikings offense and likely win the game by at least a touchdown.

Sunday 1PM games

Chiefs at Falcons (-4.5) – The Chiefs defense will have to be able to stop QB Matt Ryan and the Falcons offensive attack to have a chance to win this game because their offense isn’t nearly as explosive as Atlanta’s. Like the Cowboys-Vikings game, I expect the Falcons offense to overcome the Chiefs defense to win the game and cover.
49ers at Bears (-2.5) – The 49ers offense has picked up in recent weeks since QB Colin Kaepernick took over the starting job from QB Blaine Gabbert, and I expect that to continue against a Bears defense that hasn’t been overly impressive this season. With QB Matt Barkley expected to start again for the Bears, I’m not sure how they’re the favorites in this one. I expect the 49ers to win the game outright so I’ll take the points.
Eagles at Bengals (+1.5) – With Bengals WR A.J. Green expected to miss another game this week, the Bengals will likely struggle to put points on the scoreboard as they did last week. Despite a disappoint performance against the Packers on Monday night, the Eagles still likely have a better offense than Cincinnati, with QB Carson Wentz leading the way. Eagles win the game on the road.
Broncos at Jaguars (+5.5) – The stout Broncos defense shouldn’t have much of a problem keeping the mediocre Jaguars offense from scoring many points, so even though Denver’s offense itself isn’t very impressive, the defending Super Bowl champions should be able to score enough points to cover the spread in this one.
Lions at Saints (-5.5) – This game looks to be a shootout at the Superdome with two strong offenses doing battle. I expect the Saints to win at home, but with both teams likely putting up a lot of points, I have a hard time seeing them covering the spread so I’ll take the Lions and the points.
Texans at Packers (-5.5) Texans QB Brock Osweiler looks to redeem himself following a three-interception game last week as he faces a Packers defense that hasn’t looked good for much of the season, Week 12 notwithstanding. On the Green Bay side, the entire offense is on the shoulders of QB Aaron Rodgers as the team hasn’t had much of a running game this year. I think the Packers win the game, but I think the Texans can keep it to within a few points so I’ll take the points.
Rams at Patriots (-13.5) – This is a big spread for a Patriots team that could be without its best pass-catcher, as TE Rob Gronkowski is nursing the back injury he suffered in last week’s game that forced him to leave early. The Patriots should win the game at home, but I expect the Rams to keep it within two touchdowns.

Sunday 4PM games

Dolphins at Ravens (-3.5) – The Dolphins are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now, having won six straight games. They go into Baltimore for a game against a Ravens team that, despite being 6-5, doesn’t have a great offense. I think the Dolphins can’t extend their winning streak so I’ll take the points.
Bills at Raiders (-3.5) – The health of Raiders QB Derek Carr could be a key to this game. He temporarily left last week’s game with a thumb injury but did return, which bodes well for him to be able to play this week. If that is the case, Bills QB Tyrod Taylor won’t be able to keep up with him and the rest of the Raiders offense. Bills RB LeSean McCoy has to have a big game for his team to win, and I don’t see him doing enough for that to happen. Raiders win and cover. 
Giants at Steelers (-5.5) – Like the Dolphins, the Giants are riding a six-game winning streak into Pittsburgh to face the Steelers. Unlike the Dolphins, I don’t think the Giants make it seven in a row. The Steelers offense, led by QB Ben Roethlisberger and RB Le’Veon Bell is too much for a Giants offense that didn’t look great for much of last week’s game against the winless Browns. Steelers cover.
Redskins at Cardinals (-2.5) – The Cardinals haven’t looked great in their last couple of games, both losses, while QB Kirk Cousins and the Redskins have been putting up a good number of points in their games. I’m surprised the Cardinals are favored so I’m taking the points as I think the Redskins win the game straight up.
Buccaneers at Chargers (-3.5) This is another game in which I’m surprised the home team is favored. The Bucs have been playing well in recent weeks, including holding the Seahawks to five points in Week 12, and I think they’re a better team than the Cardinals so I think they win the game outright. Give me the points.

Sunday Night Football

Panthers at Seahawks (-6.5) – I expect the Seahawks to bounce back from last week’s mediocre five-point effort against the Bucs and QB Russell Wilson put up some points this week. Seahawks win and cover, as the Panthers’ disappointing season continues.

Monday Night Football

Colts at Jets (+2.5) – The Jets put up a good fight against the Patriots last week despite losing the game at home. I think the Jets have more success against the Colts, who aren’t nearly as good as the Patriots, this week. The Jets are underdogs, but I think they have a shot to win the game so I’ll take them with the points.

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NFL Quarterly Report: Romo-less Cowboys lead the NFC, Patriots continue to roll

With Week 9 in the books, we’re halfway through the 2016 NFL season and have a good idea of how good — or bad — teams are. We also have a better idea of which of the teams that got off to surprisingly good starts were for real and have kept it up — such as the Raiders — and which have come back to reality, perhaps most notably the Rams.

The Patriots made it through the first quarter of the season and QB Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension with a 3-1 record. Since Brady returned to the team in Week 5, not only are the Patriots undefeated but Brady is playing on a pace that would make him a lead MVP candidate if he can keep it up through the second half. In four games, Brady has more than 1,300 yards, 12 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. At 7-1, the Patriots are running away with the AFC East; the Dolphins are behind them at 4-4, while the Bills — who handed the Patriots their only loss so far — and Jets are both under .500 and quickly falling out of the playoff race.

Over in the NFC East, when Cowboys QB Tony Romo injured his back in the preseason and expected to miss the first half of the season, things weren’t looking good for the team as rookie QB Dak Prescott would have to lead the team in Romo’s absence. In the team’s first eight games, all Prescott has done is lead the Cowboys to a 7-1 record and two-game lead in the division. Romo has returned to practice, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be returning to the starting lineup anytime soon. As long as the Cowboys keep winning and Prescott performs to the level he has been — he has 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in eight games — the team will likely stick with the rookie under center. Fellow rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott is also exceeding expectations, having run for 891 yards and 7 touchdowns through the first half of his first professional season. After starting the season 3-0, the Eagles have lost four of their last five to put their record at 4-4, last place in the division. Rookie QB Carson Wentz, who had 7 touchdowns in his first four games, has not thrown multiple touchdowns in a game since Week 5. The Giants are on the upswing, having won three in a row to go to 5-3, good for second place in the division. The Redskins are in third place at 4-3-1.

A Week 9 win over the Steelers put the Ravens in a tie with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North, each at 4-4. The loss to Baltimore gave the Steelers a three-game losing streak as QB Ben Roethlisberger returned after missing a few weeks with a leg injury. The Steelers — who have RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown, who are among the best in the league at their positions — are underperforming. As Roethlisberger recovers from his injury, the offense should return to form. With the Ravens defense playing well, the Steelers don’t have much room for error or a lot of time to wait, however. The Bengals’ streak of five straight playoff appearances is in jeopardy. At 3-4-1, they can’t fall too far behind the Ravens and Steelers if they want to have a chance at winning the division, which could be their best chance of a sixth straight postseason berth. And then there’s the Browns. At 0-9, they’re still looking for their first win. With the Ravens and Steelers on their schedule the next two weeks, it doesn’t look good for them to get the zero out of their win column anytime soon. They may not get their first win until Week 14 or 15, when they play the Bengals and Bills, respectively. A 0-16 finish isn’t out of the question for Cleveland, though they’ll likely win a game before the season ends.

When the Vikings lost QB Teddy Bridgewater for the season and traded for QB Sam Bradford just before the season started, people weren’t expecting much from the team this season. Which is why their 5-0 start surprised people. They have since lost three in a row to drop to 5-3 on the year, which is still good for first place in the NFC North. The Lions are right behind them, though, at 5-4 having beating Minnesota in overtime in Week 9. Lions QB Matthew Stafford is having one of the best seasons of his career, on pace for 32 touchdowns, which would tie the second-best touchdown total of his career. The Packers find themselves in unfamiliar territory, in third place in the division at 4-4. Green Bay’s offense has been inconsistent this season. QB Aaron Rodgers does have 20 touchdowns through eight games, but he has as many one-touchdown games as he does four-touchdown games, two each. The Bears are in last place at 2-6, but their two wins have come against the top two teams in the division, the Vikings and Lions.

At 5-3, the Texans lead the mediocre AFC South — no other team in the division is above .500 — but their offense has been inconsistent this season as QB Brock Osweiler hasn’t played well in his first full season as a starter. With DE J.J. Watt out for the season, the team has been all right but not what people were expecting coming into the season. The Jaguars were a trendy pick to possibly win the division this season, but at 2-6 it doesn’t look like they’ll factor into the playoff race. The 4-4 Titans look like they could present the biggest threat to the Texans repeating as division champs, but the Colts could still sneak in there at 4-5. If the Texans can just go .500 in the second half to finish 9-7, that should be a good-enough record to win the division for the second straight year.

After going 15-1 and making it to Super Bowl 50 last year, the Panthers were the favorites to win the NFC South, but they have not had a good first half of the season. They started the year 1-5 but have won two in a row to get to 3-5, which ties them with the Buccaneers for third place in the division. Panthers QB Cam Newton has been able to continue the success he had in his MVP run of a year ago; in six starts, he has 8 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Falcons QB Matt Ryan, meanwhile, has led his team to a 6-3 record and the division lead. He is in the MVP discussion at the midway point, having thrown for 2,980 yards, 23 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions in nine games, putting him on pace for a career year if he can keep it up. The Saints got off to a 0-3 start but have had a bit of a resurgence to get to 4-4 and secure second place in the division.

The Raiders are living up to their preseason hype, now in first place in the AFC West by themselves after Sunday night’s win against the Broncos. QB Derek Carr is having a breakout season, with 17 touchdowns and 3 interceptions through nine games, putting him in the MVP discussion. The Chiefs are in second place at 6-2 despite not getting any production out of RB Jamaal Charles, who is on IR and out for the season, and not having a top-tier quarterback in Alex Smith. The Broncos, coming off their Super Bowl title are in third place with a 6-3 record. They have one of the top defenses in the league, but their offense is lacking, with QB Trevor Siemian throwing just 10 touchdowns with 5 interceptions in his eight starts this season. The Chargers, who had trouble holding fourth-quarter leads early in the season, are at the bottom of the division with a 4-5 record. With the Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos playing as well as they are, don’t be surprised to see three playoff teams come out of this division, including both of the AFC’s wild cards.

The Seahawks offense hasn’t been as prolific as we’ve come to expect in recent years, largely due to injuries that have been hampering QB Russell Wilson’s play, but they still sit atop the NFC West as the only team in the division with a winning record. The defense has played a significant role in the success the Seahawks have had so far this season. The Cardinals are in second place with a 3-4-1 record, followed by the Rams, who have dropped four straight after starting the season 3-1. The 49ers, who have gone back to QB Colin Kaepernick as their starter after QB Blaine Gabbert couldn’t get the job done, are 1-7. If the Seahawks offense doesn’t pick things up, they could be in danger of the Cardinals passing them for the division lead in the coming weeks.

Halfway through the season, some teams — including the Patriots and Cowboys — look like they’re virtually locks to make the playoffs. Others that many people picked to be playoff teams before the season started, like the Panthers, have some work to do if they want to live up to those expectations and play beyond Week 17.

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My NFL Picks Week 8: The Patriots try to avenge their loss to the Bills and the Eagles and Cowboys battle for NFC East supremacy

There aren’t many compelling matchups in Week 8 with six teams on bye, but there are some games that stand out. One such contest pits the top two teams in the AFC East, when the Patriots visit the Bills, looking to get revenge for the Bills’ victory at Gillette Stadium earlier in the season, when QB Tom Brady was serving his Deflategate suspension. The Packers head to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in a battle of two of the best teams in the NFC. The same can be said for the Sunday night game, which features the Eagles visiting the Cowboys, in a battle for first place in the NFC East. I went 7-8 last week to bring my record to 47-60 for the season. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick is in red

Byes: Ravens, Rams, Dolphins, Giants, Steelers, 49ers

Thursday Night Football
Jaguars at Titans (-3.5) – It’s the seemingly annual Thursday night game between the Jaguars and Titans, the two worst teams in the mediocre AFC South. The Titans suffered a tough loss against the Colts last week, losing a chance to get a piece of the division lead. The Jaguars offense, led by QB Blake Bortles, has been underwhelming this year, while Titans QB Marcus Mariota has been showing signs of improvement in recent weeks. Neither team’s defense is great so I’ll go with the team with the better offense, the Titans.

Sunday morning London game
Redskins at Bengals (-2.5) – The Redskins could only put up 17 points against a below-average Lions defense last week. The Bengals’ offense is looking strong of late. The running game is going well, with RBs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill both running well, and WR A.J. Green is coming off a 8-catch, 169-yard performance. I give the Bengals the advantage in this one.

Sunday 1PM games
Patriots at Bills (+6.5) – The Bills’ injury situation is not looking good. RB LeSean McCoy may have to sit out with his hamstring injury, while WR Marquise Goodwin is in the concussion protocol, leaving his status for Sunday up in the air. The receiving core is already depleted so if Goodwin can’t go, that doesn’t leave many players for QB Tyrod Taylor to pass to. The Patriots are going to continue putting up big numbers like they have since Brady returned from his suspension, and they should easily win the game.
Jets at Browns (+3.5) – The Browns are still looking for their first win of the season, and a home game against a 2-5 Jets team look like it would provide a good opportunity to get it, but I’m not sure it’ll happen. With QB Cody Kessler leaving Sunday’s game early with a possible concussion, rookie QB Kevin Hogan had to come into the game in relief. If Kessler can’t go this week, Hogan would likely get his first career start and I don’t think he’ll be able to do much against a Jets defense that looked decent last week. Even if Kessler plays, I don’t think they have enough weapons to beat the Jets. I think the Browns go 0-8, halfway to a winless season.
Lions at Texans (-2.5) – The Texans didn’t look good against the Broncos on Monday night, with QB Brock Osweiler unable to complete passes farther than 10 yards. The Lions’ defense isn’t nearly as good as Denver’s, but the Lions have a better offense than the Broncos. If the Texans want to win the game, they’ll likely have to be involved in a shootout and I don’t see that happening. I think the Lions win outright so I’ll take them and the points.
Chiefs at Colts (+2.5) – The Chiefs seem to be playing their best ball in recent weeks, while the Colts haven’t been impressive yet this season. Chiefs RB Spencer Ware is the best player on either offense and I think he’ll be able to run on the Colts. If WR Donte Moncrief is able to return from his shoulder injury and play this week, as it looks like he might, that would give the Colts a boost on offense, but I still don’t think it would be enough against a decent Chiefs offense. I pick the Chiefs on the road.
Raiders at Buccaneers (-0.5) – For the second straight week, the Raiders play a 1pm ET game in Florida and are 0.5-point underdogs. This time it’s against the Bucs and, like last week, I think the Raiders are clearly the better team and should be able to win the game outright despite the early start on the East Coast.
Seahawks at Saints (+3.5) – The Seahawks are coming off of a 6-6 tie against the Cardinals in a game that they couldn’t do much offensively. QB Russell Wilson doesn’t appear to be completely healthy. It’s a home game for the Saints, which is usually when they do better, so QB Drew Brees and the rest of the offens should be able to put points on the board. I think the Seahawks are the better team but I think the Saints can outscore them. Since I give the Saints a better-than-average chance to win the game, I’ll take New Orleans and the points.
Cardinals at Panthers (-2.5) – Two of the more disappointing teams in the NFC this season. The Cardinals are the other team in that tie game that didn’t get much done on offense. QB Carson Palmer hasn’t looked good this season and their receiving core is hurt. WR Jaron Brown suffered a season-ending ACL tear last week while WR John Brown sat out Sunday night’s game and his availability for this week is unknown. Given that, I think the Panthers have the offensive advantage behind QB Cam Newton. I expect a relatively low-scoring game but I think the Panthers will get their second win of the season, covering the 2.5-point spread in the process.

Sunday 4PM games

Chargers at Broncos (-5.5)QB Philip Rivers leads the Chargers into Denver to take on the defending Super Bowl champions looking for the season sweep after being them at home in Week 6. Broncos RB C.J. Anderson is out of at least a few weeks, and possibly for the season, with a knee injury, leaving rookie RB Devontae Booker to get his first career start. Booker has looked good with his limited workload thus far, and has been getting more carries in recent weeks. I think the Broncos defense will be able to keep the Chargers from getting a high score, and I expect the Broncos to score more than they did last time. Broncos win and cover.
Packers at Falcons (-2.5) – The Packers may not be doing as good as they usually do, but I still find it hard to bet against QB Aaron Rodgers when he’s getting points. The Falcons have been playing well — particularly WR Julio Jones — and the Packers are dealing with injuries, but I’m going to take the points with Rodgers.

Sunday Night Football
Eagles at Cowboys (-4.5) – It’s a battle of rookie quarterbacks with QB Carson Wentz leading the Eagles into AT&T Stadium against QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys. The Cowboys are expected to get WR Dez Bryant back from his injury, which would be big for them as it gives Prescott and additional weapon to throw to. With QB Tony Romo beginning to throw, Prescott likely needs to continue to play the way he has been if he wants to keep the starting job. On the other side, Wentz has started to come back to Earth a bit after getting off to his strong start. This is a key game in the NFC East, and I give it to the Cowboys at home.

Monday Night Football
Vikings at Bears (+6.5) – The Vikings head to Chicago to take on the 1-6 Bears in the final game of Week 8. QB Jay Cutler returns to the field for the Bears after QB Brian Hoyer went down with an injury in last week’s game. He will likely be rusty after not playing for a few weeks, and that won’t be good when facing a defense the caliber of the Vikings. Minnesota might be without RB Jerick McKinnon, who hurt his ankle in Week 7, but it’s looking like he’ll be able to play. I don’t think the Bears will score many points in this game, so the Vikings win and cover.

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My NFL Picks Week 4: Four undefeated teams look to go 4-0 while the unbeaten Eagles get a rest

Week 4 brings with it the first byes of the season, with the surprising 3-0 Eagles and the Packers getting an early week off. Thursday features a battle of 1-2 teams when the Dolphins visit the Bengals, with both teams looking to get to .500 to avoid falling too far behind in the playoff race. There are four teams looking to go 4-0 on the season, including the Patriots, who have one more game to get through before QB Tom Brady makes his season debut in Week 5; they’ll play the Bills at home. Of the undefeated teams, the Vikings probably have the toughest game coming up this weekend; they host the Giants on Monday night. I went 8-8 last week to maintain my .500 record for the season, with a 24-24 mark. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick is in red

Thursday Night Football
Dolphins at Bengals (-6.5)The Dolphins haven’t looked good this season, needing overtime to beat the Browns last week after letting them score a season-high 24 points. The Bengals have been a bit of a disappointment thus far, but their two losses have come against good teams in the Steelers and Broncos. Broncos should win the game, and I think they can do it by a touchdown to cover the spread.

Sunday morning London game
Colts at Jaguars (+2.5) – It looks like the people who thought the Jaguars could be a playoff team this year were wrong. Off to a 0-3 start, the team is struggling on both sides of the ball — ranking 26th in the league in both points scored and points allowed. At 1-2, the Colts aren’t living up to expectations either, but they’re a better team than the Jags and should get a win on the road.

Sunday 1PM games
Panthers at Falcons (+2.5) – The Panthers had a hard time with a tough Vikings defense as they suffered their first loss of the season in Week 3, but now they get a defense that allowed 32 points to a winless Saints team on Monday night. QB Cam Newton and the rest of the Panthers offense should have a much easier time against Atlanta than they had against the Vikings. A 2.5-point spread seems kind of low in this game. I expect the Panthers to win by at least a touchdown.
Bills at Patriots (-6.5)The Patriots have some question marks entering their final game without Brady, including who will start at quarterback. Even with uncertainty at that key position, the Patriots are facing a defense that has given up 55 points in the last two games. The Patriots will be able to put up points on the Bills. I expect them to win by a touchdown.
Lions at Bears (+2.5) – The Bears are 0-3 and desperate to start getting some wins. I don’t think it’ll happen this week, though. Lions QB Matthew Stafford has done a good job leading the offense so far this season. Lions easily cover the spread in this one.
Browns  at Redskins (-8.5) – The Browns aren’t good, but the Redskins haven’t been overly impressive in their first three games either. WR Terrelle Pryor had a breakout game for Cleveland in Week 3 and will look to make it two straight big games in a row. I don’t think it’ll be enough to win, though. Redskins win the game, but I don’t trust them to cover a 8.5-point spread.
Titans at Texans (-6.5) – It’s been a bad week for the Texans. Not only did they get shut out by the Patriots last Thursday but they had to place DE J.J. Watt on injured reserve Wednesday, which means he’ll miss at least eight weeks but is likely to miss the remainder of the season. That puts pressure on the rest of the defense, including LBs Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney to excel. After a poor offensive performance in Week 3, it’s hard to trust the Texans’ offense. I think they’ll get the win, but I’m taking the Titans and the points.
Raiders at Ravens (-3.5)These two teams are pretty evenly matched. Not many people expected the Ravens to be 3-0 at this point but QB Joe Flacco has played well. I think this one will come down to the defense and the Ravens have the advantage there, so I’m going with the home team.
Seahawks at Jets (+3.5) – With the way Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick performed last week, throwing six interceptions, I think the Seahawks defense will be able to contain the Jets offense. The health of Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is a concern, though, as he had to leave last week’s game early. I think he’ll be able to play and perform pretty well so I still like Seattle to win — and cover.

Sunday 4PM games
Broncos at Buccaneers (+3.5) – This is a matchup of a good defense (the Broncos) against a bad defense (the Buccaneers). The Bucs have given up 40 and 37 points, respectively, in the last two weeks. I expect the Broncos to be able to score on Tampa and the defending Super Bowl champs could win by double digits.
Cowboys at 49ers (+2.5) – I’m surprised the spread is so small in this one. Rookie QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott have shown that they are the real thing thus far. Although WR Dez Bryant is hobbled with a foot injury, he still has a chance to play, and even if he can’t go the Cowboys should easily handle the 49ers and cover the spread.
Rams at Cardinals (-8.5) – Before last week, I might have taken the Cardinals to cover the spread, but they didn’t look good last week, scoring just 18 points against a bad Bills defense. The Rams’ defense is better than the Bills’ so I think the Cardinals will win the game, I don’t think they’ll be able to cover the spread.
Saints at Chargers (-4.5) – The Saints’ defense could be the worst in the league, but their offense is able to put up points. This should be a blow out, and I trust Saints QB Drew Brees more than Chargers QB Philip Rivers, even though Brees plays better at home than he does at home. I think the Saints will at least keep the game close so I’m taking them with the points, even though I’m not convinced they’ll win the game.

Sunday Night Football
Chiefs at Steelers (-5.5)The Steelers get RB Le’Veon Bell back this week after he was suspended for the first three games of the season. That’ll provide a boost to an offense that already includes one of the best receivers in the league in WR Antonio Brown. Even though the Steelers disappointed last week against the Eagles, I’m not big on the Chiefs’ offense so I’ll take the Steelers to bounce back and not only win but cover the 5.5 points at home.

Monday Night Football
Giants at Vikings (-4.5)The Vikings are looking to go 4-0 when they host the Giants. While injuries have taken on a toll on the Vikings’ offense, their defense has been impressive so far in 2016. As Giants QB Eli Manning is apt to throw interceptions, I think the Vikings’ defense will be able to limit the Giants enough that the offense won’;t need to get into a shootout to win this one. QB Sam Bradford has looked fine filling in for injured QB Teddy Bridgewater, so I’m going with the Vikings in the last game of the week.

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