Sunday Selections (Week 6)
Cincinnati at Cleveland
Quick rematch here as CIN beat CLE 34-27 in the 1st meeting. CLE had a 439-375 yd edge as RB Richardson totaled 109 yds (5.7) on the ground. Dalton had 318 yds (77%) with a 3-1 ratio as CLE was without CB Haden (susp) who returns here. The Bengals have won 7 of 8 vs the Browns and in their L/2 trips here won by 3 in OT (-6’) and lost outright 51-45 (-7). CLE is the only winless team which makes the Browns a dangerous, backed into the corner team. This also adds pressure to CIN not wanting to be CLE’s first victim and while I don’t expect them to overlook an instate div rival, next week’s SNF game on Nat’l TV vs PIT has to be on their minds. The Browns have totaled 10 sacks in their 2 div games this year and both were on the road. Now at home they’ll hold nothing back as CIN’s QB Dalton has been sacked 4 or more times on the road on 3 different occasions and the team has been outscored by an avg of 31-17. Look for this to be another close AFC North battle.
Indianapolis at NY Jets
These two last met in the 2010 Wild Card round as the Jets pulled the 17-16 upset over Peyton Manning at IND with Sanchez leading a 41/5pl drive with a 32 yd FG on the final play. This is a must win for the Jets having lost their best off and defensive weapons to IR, off a Monday Nighter loss vs HOU with a road game vs NE on deck. IND is off a very emotional come from behind win played for hospitalized HC Pagano. After trailing 21-3 at HT Luck led the Colts to five 2H scoring drives while the Colts D held the Packers to 5 plays or less on 7 of their 8 second half drives. It’ll be much more difficult for interim HC Arians’ on the road in front of the frantic Jets fans while Luck plays only his 2nd road game after throwing for only 51% and a 1-3 ratio in his first which was a 20 pt loss to CHI. Look for the Jets to have an aggressive defensive gameplan as when they played another rookie in MIA they were very vanilla with no sks, 1 tfl and only 2 qbh’s and needed OT to escape with the win. The desperate home team knocks off the young Colts in a letdown spot.
Kansas City at Tampa Bay
The Chiefs go from B2B games at rowdy Arrowhead Stadium to what very well could be the quietest stadium (Raymond James). KC continues to be underrated with their 1-4 record as they rank #4 on off and #11 on defense outgaining foes by 76 ypg vs a top 5 schedule. TB meanwhile, has been outgained by 93 ypg vs a bottom 5 schedule with their #27 off and #25 defense. The Bucs, however, still have performed well with a new coaching staff despite getting outgained by 214 ypg vs both teams with defenses in the top 22. The visitor is one of 4 teams with both units in top 11 while the host is one of 4 teams with both units in the bottom 8.
Oakland at Atlanta
Tough spot for OAK coming off a bye where they are 0-9 in that role losing by a 28-13 avg score. Their #29 pass defense has been beat up by inj’s and along with DET the Raiders are the 1 of 2 to have not earned an int TY giving up 72% comp with a 9-0 ratio. Ryan has avg’d 237 ypg (65%) with a 22-6 ratio in his L10 home games avg 29 ppg. None of OAK’s WR’s has 200 yds thru 4 games and the top 3 rec’s are RB McFadden (18, 6.2), TE Myers (16, 14.3) and FB Reece (13, 9.1). ATL’s #17 run defense (5.4) is overinflated by the fact they faced 2 mobile QB’s and they get an OAK team desperate to get their run game on track (61 ypg, 3.4). Falcons stay undefeated!
Dallas at Baltimore
DAL has had 2 weeks to seethe over their MNF meltdown. Romo’s splits are noteworthy as his road numbers (289 ypg, 66%, 19-6) are far superior to his home numbers (244, 67%, 17-12). The Ravens are off a trip to Arrowhead where they needed a stout defensive effort to overcome a flat offense. This is their first non-primetime home game after winning their first 3. BAL’s new high paced offense has avg’d 457 ypg at home while Flacco has avg’d 342 ypg passing but their 3 foes have an avg pass D ranking of #24 while Dallas visits with the #1 ranking. Lastly DC Rob Ryan is now in his 2nd season here and he’s quite familiar with the Ravens from his CLE days as with lesser talent he held BAL to 299 ypg and 16 FD’s/gm the L/3 meetings in 2009 and ‘10.
Detroit at Philadelphia
A 1-3 start is depressing for both Lions fans and players but it’s even worse that it comes against the #18 sked. DET’s bottom 5 ranking in our special teams ratings is obviously deserved as the unit has clearly cost them the L/2 games giving up 2 KO/PR td’s in each game. PHI meanwhile became the first ever NFL team to win 3 of their first 4 games by 2 points or less. Vick has been publicly maligned for his 6-6 ratio and 5 fumbles as well but he’s been up to the task as the Eagles came from behind and scored last in all 3 wins with GW drives of 82/16pl, 63/10 pl and 75/12 scoring with 1:18, 1:55 and 1:49! PHI almost pulled an upset vs PIT LW but 2 fumbles (one on PIT 3) in the 2Q proved to be the difference. This is a pair of teams that rank in both the top 10 off/def including DET’s #26 scoring def AND PHI’s #31 scoring offense. DET may get the huge addition of FS Delmas but this game will go to the team that can finish their drives.
St Louis at Miami
The Rams have extra rest from the Thursday Nite win over ARZ, taking on a MIA team that returns home off B2B road games and a pair of OT affairs in the L3W. STL, however has survived on big plays and that hasn’t happened on the road as they are avg 206 ypg and 13 FD’s/gm with their longest drive in each road game only 43 and 52 yds. The Dolphins may only be 2-3 but they’ve played better than I expected. Both the OL and DL deserve credit as they are +5 sacks and avg 4.6 ypc rushing and lead the NFL with 2.6 ypc on rush D. After a confidence building road win against one of LY’s playoff teams they are the superior team at home for only the second time after beating OAK 35-13. Home team gets the win here.
New England at Seattle
Quick name the last two NE HC’s? They face off here as Carroll led the Pats from ‘97-’99. Despite his tenure with the Patriots, Brady has NOT played at CenturyLink Field as he was on IR in 2008 when the teams last met. While both teams have their main division rivals on deck NE has the edge hosting the Jets next Sun while SEA knows that the NFC West goes through SF which is where they’ll play on Thursday. While they have beaten DAL and GB at home, LW was the 1st time TY that rookie Wilson passed for over 200 yds and unlike DAL/GB, NE can actually run the ball (165 ypg, 4.3). Some might be impressed with Seattle’s 16 sks TY but 8 came vs Green Bay. Now they face one of the league’s elite in audibling against a blitz and taking advantage of one-on-one matchups. Belichick is still a great defensive mind confusing starting rookies as he’s faced them 13 times allowing 189 ypg, 54% and an 11-21 ratio. No need to worry about a West Coast trip as in the L2Y NE has gone to DEN, OAK and SD and is 3-0.
Buffalo at Arizona
Minnesota at Washington
The formula to win games on the NFL road is to have a solid rush attack, have a D that doesn’t allow big plays, win the turnover battle and if you have a superior ST’s unit it’s a bonus. That’s 4 checks for the Vikings! The AP led rush attack has avg 151 ypg and 5.1 ypc the L2W while the D is allowing 4.6 ypp. MIN is also on the plus side in the TO battle while having a #16 to #24 ST edge. WAS has played all 3 NFC South teams close beating NO/TB and playing ATL tough until Griffin was KO’d w/a concussion. The Skins D still ranks #30 allowing 456 ypg the L4W while the offense was slowed to a season low 316 vs ATL. WAS will start either rookie QB, has a defense that ranks at the bottom and has played the #21 schedule. Vikings HC Frazier has pleasant thoughts about the Skins as he beat them 17-13 in 2010 as his first game as interim HC and leads the Vikings to another win this week.
NY Giants at San Francisco
San Fran gets a shot at redemption as a muffed punt cost them a shot at the Super Bowl in LY’s OT loss in the Conference finals. The 49ers continue to be the NFL’s most dominant home team as they manhandled Buffalo (621-204 yds) LW. The Giants trailed Cleveland early but came back behind the running of Bradshaw (200 yds, 6.7) who set new high’s in yds (151 rookie ssn) and carries (26 LY) but those numbers will not be duplicated against the league’s #2 D. Eli, however, does have his off rolling avg 469 ypg the L4W and he loves the spotlight on the road as the Giants won at Philly (28-16), at NE (24-20), at DAL (37-34) and of course here in the playoffs (20-17 in OT). The Giants DL will be the deciding factor in this game. In their 5 losses the last 1+ seasons SF allowed an avg of 5.2 sks/gm. I’ll be a fan watching this one as they meet for the 3rd time since last November.
Green Bay at Houston
The Texans host their first prime-time game since Nov 2010 but it comes 6 days after a Monday Nighter at the Jets. While both teams finished in the top 10 in offense LY their defenses both rank in the top 8 this season. Green Bay is used to the spotlight but comes in a surprising 2-3. QB Rodgers is avg 260 ypg (69%) with a 10-4 ratio and his top target has been Nelson (23, 12.6) but he only has 1 td. Benson leads the run game with 248 (3.5) but he too has just 1 td. On the flip side, Schaub is throwing for 232 ypg (64%) with an 8-2 ratio. His top target is Daniels (23, 13.5, 3 td) and the run game is, of course, led by Foster who has 532 (4.0) and 5 td. This one is a possible Super Bowl preview.