A Week Patriots Fans Can Just Watch
Last Week of Byes Makes Me Happy
Ahhh .. One of my favorite weeks of the year: The last week of byes. That means nothing but football from here on out. Even better, your New England Patriots have their bye -- at a seemingly perfect time -- and we get to relax for a bit. Catch up. Smell the coffee.
Tomorrow, Pats Pulpit will have a general open thread. Drop by and comment on any of the games. I plan on submitting a "first-half" Patriots report card over the next couple days. And there are a few other tidbits that are appropriate bye-week subjects.
Back to the games, and there are a few beauties this week.
Of interest in the AFC East, Buffalo heads south to division rival Miami. A lot of people are talking upset, while others are talking about a winless slate for the Phins. The Bills, despite a rough start to the season, are still potential playoff contenders, and they need this win to maintain that status.
There are two more East matchups, both in the NFC. Washington is a game out of the wild card, and they need to be Philly at home. Meanwhile, in the 4 p.m. Game to Watch, Dallas travels to New Jersey to meet the Giants for the division lead.
There are a couple important AFC North games, too. Tennessee hosts Jacksonville in the 1 p.m. Game to Watch, and Indy heads to San Diego for the Sunday night game.
Stat of the Week: New England is 5th in the league in points allowed. They've achieved this while defeated 3 of the top-5 highest scoring teams in the league (Dallas, 2nd; Indy, 3rd; Cleveland, 4th). They've also beaten the Cincinnati (8th) and San Diego (10th). So much Patrick Crayton's ludicrous "their defense isn't that good" statement. Oh, the Patriots have not stopped the highest scoring offense in the league -- it's their own. Here are the picks:
Sunday, Nov. 11
Atlanta (2-6) at Carolina (4-4), 1 p.m.
Atlanta held off San Fran at home last week, but that's not much to brag about. Carolina wasn't exactly impressive in Tennessee, but at least they now have experience playing a team with no quarterback. Not that they have a quarterback themselves. But this is the game neither team seems to want to win. Carolina is 0-3 at home; Atlanta is 0-4 on the road. Statistically, they're pretty even, which is to say neither team has any decisive advantage.
Prediction: Carolina, 17-10.
Minnesota (3-5) at Green Bay (7-1), 1 p.m.
A team with no passing game (Minnesota) visits a team with no running game (Green Bay), which makes having one of the best rushing defenses in the league (Minnesota, 2nd) less than useful. But the Pack has a pretty good rushing defense too (8th) so the pregame hype story is whether Green Bay can stop rookie sensation Adrian Peterson. The storyline most are forgetting is Brett Favre against Minnesota's 31st-ranked passing defense. And with Green Bay 3-1 at home and Minnesota 1-3 on the road, this looks like a no brainer.
Prediction: Packers, 27-17.
Denver (3-5) at Kansas City (4-4), 1 p.m.
Of all the coaches expected to be on the hotseat, who expected Mike Shanahan might be one of them? Denver is one of only two teams (with St. Louis) being outscored by more than 100 points. The good news for Denver is that only three other offenses have scored fewer points than Kansas City's. It's just that Denver has scored only 2 more than K.C., and it hasn't been easy for them to win at Arrowhead.
Prediction: Chiefs, 14-7.
Buffalo (4-4) at Miami (0-8), 1 p.m.
I'm not sure on what people are basing their upset picks. Sure, Buffalo has a few injuries, and to key players, but they are 4-1 since losing to New England. Meanwhile, Miami is tied with Cincinnati for the most points allowed in the league. Even coming off a bye after having to travel to England two weeks ago doesn't seem like much of an advantage. If Ronnie Brown didn't suffer a season-ending injury a few weeks ago, I'd think differently, but where is Miami going to get its offense? The only possibility is that they can find a way to run the ball with Jesse Chatman in the absence of defensive end Aaron Schobel and middle linebacker John DiGiorgio. And I don't see how the 31st-ranked running defense is going to stop Marshawn Lynch.
Prediction: Bills, 28-13.
St. Louis (0-8) at New Orleans (4-4), 1 p.m.
Please see previous analysis of an 0-8 team facing a 4-4 team.
Prediction: Saints, 34-13.
Cleveland (5-3) at Pittsburgh (6-2), 1 p.m.
Much as I'd like to see Cleveland pull this one off, I don't see it happening. Yes, the can probably score, but I don't think they can stop Pittsburgh. Both teams have scored about 225 points, but Cleveland has allowed more than 200 and Pittsburgh less than 100 (98 to lead the /NFL). But you never know. Cleveland's only loss in their last five is to New England.
Prediction: Steelers, 30-24.
Jacksonville (5-3) at Tennessee (6-2), 1 p.m.
Here are two low-scoring teams that don't allow many points. This is the kind of game you expect the teams to combine for no more than 2 touchdowns. Neither team inspires fear with their passing games. Tennessee has the best rushing defense in the league. Jacksonville is 3-1 on the road, and Tennessee is equally good at home. Tennessee won the Week 1 matchup between the division rivals, 13-10. A lot has changed since then, but the score probably won't by much.
Prediction: Titans, 13-7.
Philadelphia (3-5) at Washington (5-3), 1 p.m.
Washington hardly "destroyed" the 1-7 Jets when they were supposed to be proving the New England game was a fluke and that the better team didn't win, and they needed the benefit of a generous call to win at all. So maybe it's not such a stretch to think Philadelphia has a chance here. The Week 2 matchup in Philly was a 20-12 Washington win with the home team driving for a potential tying score late in the fourth. Philadelphia has been in win-one-lose-one mode ever since, and they lost last week. Philly needs the win to have any chance to stay in the NFC East race, and Washington needs it to keep pace with New York and Dallas. I wouldn't be surprised by an upset.
Prediction: Redskins, 23-17.
Cincinnati (2-6) at Baltimore (4-4), 4:05 p.m.
If you take a good look at Marvin Lewis, that's sweat beading. It's getting pretty warm where he's sitting. Maybe a season sweep of Baltimore will by him reprieve. As badly as Baltimore looked Monday, there's little chance they'll repeat the performance at home. It's still tough to decide between that scores a lot and can't stop anyone versus a team that doesn't allow many points, but scores fewer. I still find it somewhat amazing when I see teams like these. Cincy is 2-2 at home and 0-4 on the road. Baltimore is 3-0 at home and 1-4 on the road. It's hard to pick a team that's winless on the road against a team that's undefeated at home.
Prediction: Ravens, 21-20.
Detroit (6-2) at Arizona (3-5), 4:15 p.m.
Jon Kitna is going to be three wins from his prediction with seven to play. Detroit is 4-1 in their last five, and Arizona has lost three straight. I'm very tempted to pick the desert team because I can't believe a Matt Millen team is about to become 7-2. Then again, Arizona is 7th in the league against the pass. Could they possibly slow down the Lions passing attack? Detroit has an awful passing defense, but who can Arizona count on to take advantage of it?
Prediction: Lions, 28-13.
Dallas (7-1) at N.Y. Giants (6-2), 4:15 p.m.
A Week 1 matchup between these teams is meaningless here. New Jersey owns the second longest winning streak in the league, and they're playing at home while coming off a bye. Dallas's only loss is to New England. There's so much at stake here. With Green Bay also 7-1, Dallas needs the win to keep pace for the top seed. New Jersey needs a win or fall to a two-game deficit in the division with Washington potentially breathing down their necks. New Jersey's defense has dramatically improved since the season's early weeks, and they score more than their offensive stats may indicate. They can still run the ball, even without Tiki Barber, now that Brandon Jacobs is strengthening following that Week 1 knee injury, but Dallas is pretty good at stopping the run. This will be one of the better passing defenses Tony Romo has seen this season. All-in-all, it should be a fun game to watch.
Prediction: Giants, 28-24.
Chicago (3-5) at Oakland (2-6), 4:15 p.m.
All but one of Oakland's losses are by 7 or fewer, and they've played some decent teams. But they've also lost four straight, and Chicago seems to have at least kept the ship from sinking. Still, Oakland can run the ball, and Chicago with all their injuries has a tough time stopping anyone from running. Give Oakland 3 for home field, and that's probably your ball game.
Prediction: Raiders, 15-12.
Indianapolis (7-1) at San Diego (4-4), 8:15 p.m.
Despite some improvements over the last several weeks, Norv Turner's Chargers are not Marty Schottenheimer's Chargers. Last week is all the evidence you need. San Diego allowed an NFL record 296 yards to a running back, a rookie, no less. What makes you think they can stop Indianapolis, who not only has a solid running game, but also has one of the best quarterbacks in the game (as opposed to Tarvaris Jackson)? I mean, if you can't stop a team that you know is going to run, how do you stop a team that can run and pass and you don't know which is coming next? San Diego didn't do a very good job against New England, if I remember correctly. If only the Chargers had Marty back and .. hmmm .. a quarterback like, say, Drew Brees. Not sure if I've said this before, but you don't have to worry about losing in the playoffs if you don't make it to them.
Prediction: Colts, 31-21.
Monday, Nov. 12
San Francisco (2-6) at Seattle (4-4), 8:30 p.m.
The amazing thing is that if New England's first-round draft pick wins, they'll be within a game of the division lead. In fact, all of the NFL's West teams are a combined are 22-42. Wow. Of all eight teams, none have a winning road record (no surprise) and only Seattle and San Diego (both 3-1) have winning home records. How do you analyze teams playing at this level? Would it surprise anyone if San Fran actually wins this game? You have to go with Seattle, because they are at least 3-1 at home, and San Fran has scored just 104 points all season (5 more than St. Louis). This could be among the lowest rated Monday Night Football games in years, because the matchup is terrible, and the broadcast team is unimaginably worse. The only reason to tune it (and I'll have to hear it from someone else) is what will be the most utterly ludicrous and inane thing Tony Kornheiser says. The 3rd quarter celebrity might actually be the bright spot for this game -- and that's the worst idea ever. Maybe it will be Rosie O'Donnell talking about 9/11 conspiracies, and MNF will be canceled on the spot.
Prediction: Seahawks, 21-9.
Open Date: Houston (4-5), New England (9-0), N.Y. Jets (1-8), Tampa Bay (5-4)
Last week: 10 - 4 (71.4 percent).
Train kept a-rollin'. Starting to make the season percentage look more respectable.
Season: 94 - 44 (68.1 percent).
Still pulling ahead of last season (78-50, 60.9 percent), but it may be time for a "market correction." It's bound to happen sooner or later. A bye week when I over-analyze everything because I don't have to write a Patriots game preview is a likely candidate.