Sunday, November 8, 2009

Unbeatens Won't Tumble This Week

There are some important games on the schedule this week — Baltimore–Cincinnati, Arizona–Chicago, Houston–Indianapolis, Dallas–Philadelphia, Pittsburgh–Denver. Some are divisional clashes. Some are not.

I guess, at this stage of the season, the question is whether the undefeated teams will remain undefeated. Only two NFL teams are still undefeated — Indianapolis and New Orleans. I don't know if either team will be unbeaten when the playoffs begin, but I feel confident that both teams will still be unbeaten when the day is done.
  • Baltimore (4–3) at Cincinnati (5–2) — A Baltimore win combined with a Pittsburgh loss on Monday night will create a three–way tie in the AFC North. And it would make the AFC North one of the most closely watched divisions as pro football moves into the second half of the season. The Ravens are 3–point underdogs, but I'm picking them, anyway, which makes Baltimore a modest upset special.

  • Miami (3–4) at New England (5–2) — This has the potential to be a big game for the Dolphins — if they win. But I don't think they will win. And neither do the oddsmakers, who have installed the Patriots as 10½–point favorites. New England is headed for the playoffs. The Dolphins are not. I pick the Patriots to win.

  • Arizona (4–3) at Chicago (4–3) — This is an important game for both teams. The Cardinals lead their division, but they could be sharing that lead with San Francisco if they lose and the 49ers beat Tennessee. The Bears are 2½ games behind Minnesota (which has a bye this week) and tied with Green Bay (which has to be considered the favorite to beat Tampa Bay). Chicago is unbeaten at home, Arizona is unbeaten on the road. Something has to give. I don't think the weather will be a factor. For Nov. 8, it should be fairly pleasant in Chicago (low 70s and sunny). I'll take Arizona.

  • Washington (2–5) at Atlanta (4–3) — The Falcons have been struggling in recent weeks, but today they have the cure for what ails them. The truly awful Redskins are coming to town. Atlanta should cover the 10–point spread they have been given.

  • Green Bay (4–3) at Tampa Bay (0–7) — Back in the days when these teams competed in the same division, their matchups were dubbed the "Bay of Pigs" contests. They meet less frequently now that they are in different divisions. The Bucs have had a week off to prepare for this game, and they're playing at home. Will that make a difference? No. I pick Green Bay.

  • Houston (5–3) at Indianapolis (7–0) — This is a key showdown in the AFC South. The Texans will trail the Colts regardless of the outcome — by 1½ games if they win, 3½ if they lose — but that is the short–term view. Houston has a bye next week, then the teams will meet in a rematch the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Momentum will probably be with the Texans if they win (only a date with the currently 1–6 Titans lies between their games with the Colts). Can they do what three other teams have failed to do in Indianapolis — namely win? I don't think so.

  • Kansas City (1–6) at Jacksonville (3–4) — The Jaguars are a longshot to make the playoffs, but the Chiefs should be almost a guaranteed win for Jacksonville. The Jags are picked by 6½ points. Sounds about right.

  • Carolina (3–4) at New Orleans (7–0) — Common sense says the Saints have to lose sometime. But the oddsmakers, who have made New Orleans a 13½–point pick, clearly don't believe it will happen this week. Considering that Carolina only narrowly beat Washington and lost by 11 to Buffalo a couple of weeks ago, it's hard for me to picture Carolina being the team that hands New Orleans its first setback of the season. Stranger things have happened, I suppose. But my gut tells me the Saints will win.

  • Detroit (1–6) at Seattle (2–5) — Last week, the Lions became the first team to lose to the pathetic St. Louis Rams this season. And that was a home game for Detroit. The Lions have been even worse on the road. I pick Seattle to cover its 10–point spread.

  • Tennessee (1–6) at San Francisco (3–4) — A year ago, the Titans went 13–3 and won the AFC South. What a difference a year makes. Today, it is hard to imagine Tennessee making the playoffs — and any thoughts of overtaking the 7–0 Indianapolis Colts to repeat as division champs went out the window weeks ago. The 49ers, on the other hand, are still in the race in the NFC West. They're at home. And they're favored by four points. Tennessee may put up a scrap, but I expect San Francisco to win.

  • San Diego (4–3) at New York Giants (5–3) — Giants fans don't want to think that their team will lose four straight games, but let's look at the teams they have beaten so far this year. Four of their five wins are against teams (Washington, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Oakland) who have a combined record of 5–24. Their other win was a narrow victory over Dallas. To be fair, the Chargers haven't been much better, but they're riding a winning streak right now so the momentum is with them. I'll pick the Chargers in what is probably an upset special.

  • Dallas (5–2) at Philadelphia (5–2) — Unless the game goes into overtime and neither team scores, the winner of this game will emerge as the leader of the NFC East — but, if the Giants beat San Diego, the lead will only be ½ a game so it won't necessarily be anything long term. If the game was being played in Dallas, I would probably pick the Cowboys, but both teams are 3–1 on their home fields, and, unless the Eagles suffer some sort of letdown after their big win over the Giants, I'm going to pick the Eagles to win.
  • Pittsburgh (5–2) at Denver (6–1) — The Broncos are favored by three points. I'm inclined to think it may be even closer than that. Sure, there are reasons to pick the Steelers. They're riding a four–game winning streak, and the Broncos are coming off their first loss of the season, but I still think Denver will win the game. It will be chillier in Denver than it has been in Pittsburgh. Will that matter? I doubt it.
Last week: 10–3.

Season: 83–33.

No comments: