Sunday Selections (Week 9)
Denver at Cincinnati
The Broncos come in after their 34-14 Sun Night rout of the Saints and are clearly in a letdown after a trip to face Brady in NE, Rivers in SD and hosting Brees and the Saints. The Broncos D however will be happy to not face a marquee QB. While Cincy sits at 3-4 and QB Dalton’s completing 64% of his passes after being 58% last year, his ratio is only 13-10 compared to 23-10 last year. What makes his numbers even worse is that he’s faced 6 teams whose avg pass D rank is #26 and vs #2 PIT he threw for 105 yds (50%) while DEN comes in #9. This year at Paul Brown Stadium the Bengals have allowed 69% comp and that was against Big Ben and 2 rookie QB’s (Weeden & Tannehill). Manning has shaken off the rust and in his L/4 games he’s thrown for 329 ypg (68%) with an 11-1 ratio. Look for the Broncos to continue to roll along here.
PHIL’S FORECAST: DENVER 28 CINCINNATI 20
Arizona at Green Bay
The Cardinals are off LW’s 24-3 MNF loss to SF. GB has a slight statistical edge with the #21 and #13 units (+3 TO’s) at home in cold weather vs the domed #31 and #6 units (+4 TO’s). However, their real edge is their #1 pass rush vs an OL that has given up 35 sacks TY with 4 straight games of 5 or more prior to SF. GB got off to a slow start last week vs JAX but in the 2H held them to 5 FD’s and 108 yards. Rodgers has thrown for 284 ypg (70%) with an 18-2 ratio the L5W and while ARZ’s #4 pass defense (6.4 ypa, 6-8 ratio) has been solid this year, the only elite passer they’ve faced so far has been Brady who, on an “off day”, logged 297 yds (61%) with a 1-1 ratio. While GB is injury depleted, they are still chasing CHI/MIN in the division and roll at home.
PHIL’S FORECAST: GREEN BAY 30 ARIZONA 16
Miami at Indianapolis
Both teams are off of upset wins vs div foes with the Dolphins being 0-9 after the Jets. They now travel for the 2nd straight week with an uncertain QB situation as Tannehill (quad) left last week’s game. MIA got 14 pts off a blk’d punt and a fumble to take control of the game but was outgained 256-90 in the 2H. MIA is trying to be a run oriented team around RB Bush but he’s only rushed for 61 ypg (3.8) on the road this year and minus the ARZ game the Dolphins only have a single 100 yd receiving effort by a player (Hartline 111, 12.3 vs OAK). IND outgained TEN 286-166 after the 1H and Luck has led the Colts to a 3-1 mark at home with a respectable 271 ypg (55%) and a 6-2 ratio. IND has won the yardage battle in 4 of the last 5 games and their defense gets the speed advantage at home. I’ll take the healthier QB at home.
PHIL’S FORECAST: INDIANAPOLIS 17 MIAMI 13
Baltimore at Cleveland
The Ravens had an extra week to stew after getting hammered by HOU prior to the bye. However, BAL has been contending with the Hurricane Sandy situation prior to traveling. BAL relies on a no huddle offense to set the pace in the game and while it works well at home (+33 ypg) it struggles on the road due to crowd noise (-148 ypg). The Ravens are also prone to playing down to the level of their competition as shown by barely getting past KC. BAL had a 438-357 yd edge vs CLE in the 1st meeting holding the Browns to 43 yds rushing (2.5) winning 23-16. CLE did move from its 10 down to the BAL33 with a chance to tie at the end but Weeden overthrew his receiver. CLE gave a solid defensive effort last week holding SD to 6 punts and 2 SOD on 11 drives. CLE also expects to have both starting DT’s Rubin (ankle) and Taylor (pectoral) for depth for the #24 rush defense. With the Ravens beat up and distracted I’ll call for the home team to sneak away with a win.
PHIL’S FORECAST: CLEVELAND 21 BALTIMORE 20
Buffalo at Houston
Two completely different mindsets coming out of their byes as Buffalo has been outgained in 4 straight losing 3 of them while Houston rebounded from its only loss and has the AFC’s best record. Not every QB gets the “privilege” of facing a top 5 D on the road and after Fitzpatrick threw for only 126 yds and led BUF to 204 yds and 10 FD’s at SF he faces another this week (#3). The Bills D has played respectable against similar foes but against NE and SF they’ve allowed 1201 yds, 96 pts and 62 FD’s. Some teams struggle to stay focused against bottom ranked teams, but remember, last year the trio of Schaub, Foster and Johnson were not together in one game in the 2H of the season so I expect many “fun” one-sided contests for this still excitable team.
PHIL’S FORECAST: HOUSTON 31 BUFFALO 14
Carolina at Washington
RG3 vs Cam Newton will draw an audience. With the NFC East matching up vs the South we already have 4 common foes in TB, NO, ATL and the NYG. The Panthers have gone 1-3 getting outscored 99-80 and outgained by 20 ypg while the Skins are 2-2 only getting outscored by a point (105-104) and outgaining the foursome by 47 ypg. Last week Newton voiced his displeasure with the offense and despite going on the road vs the #7 D he threw for 314 yds (outgained CHI 416-210) but threw another game costly pick-6 up 19-14 with under 7:00 left. The Panthers need RB Stewart for their offense to be successful as last year in their 6 wins he had at least 10 rush att’s or 85+ yds and this year again he had 11 rush att’s in the NO win but he struggled again last week (42, 2.5). The Redskins rush D at home however has only allowed 90 ypg and only 3.5 ypc. The Skins meanwhile return home off a previous home win playing with revenge from a 33-20 loss last year with an excited QB and home crowd knowing they want to head into their bye on a positive note.
PHIL’S FORECAST: WASHINGTON 34 CAROLINA 28
Detroit at Jacksonville
No one has played a better set of defenses than the Lions as into last week they’ve already faced the league’s #1, #3, #6, #8, #10 and #12. Versus the one non-top 12 D they faced (TEN #30) they posted 583 yds and 36 FD’s!! Look for the Lions to prioritize getting out to a fast start as they trailed at HT in ALL 7 games this season. The Jaguars only have 3 main issues this season but they are unfortunately their off (#32), defense (#25) and their ST’s (#32). Jacksonville has had 7 td drives in the L/6 games but ONLY 2 have been over 5 plays long meaning if you can stop the home run you will shut them down as evidenced by getting held to 212 yds or less in 3 of the L5W. The Jags have also been very hospitable at home with a D allowing 67%, that only has 4 picks on the year and only has a 1.0 sack % at home. The trio of Stafford, Megatron and TE Pettigrew are salivating and Johnson is the ONLY receiver avg over 15 ypc (15.6) with at least 32 rec’s while Pettigrew is on pace again for another top 5 finish among TE’s. I’m going to back a hungry Lions squad who, despite being a disappointing 3-4, know they are playoff worthy and even out their record here.
PHIL’S FORECAST: DETROIT 31 JACKSONVILLE 17
Chicago at Tennessee
The Bears are sitting atop the NFC North with the NFC’s second best record so forgive them if their full attention is not on this trip with a Sunday night home game vs the AFC’s leader on deck. This year the Bears have feasted against the #25 schedule outgaining IND, STL, JAX by 166 ypg and last week when the offense struggled the NFL’s #1 ST’s forced punts of 6 & 35 yds leading to 38 & 49 yd td drives while the D pitched in with a pick-6. While TEN units are only ranked #24 and #30 it has been against the #4 schedule including home games vs NE, DET and PIT the last 2 of which they beat. TEN’s CJ has topped 90+ yds rushing in 4 of the L/5 but he only totaled 24 (1.6) vs Minny’s top 10 D and now he faces the league’s #1 rush D (78 ypg, 3.8) which has also totaled 27 sks and they will feast on an immobile Hasselback and an OL that has all’d 2.6 sks/gm the L/5. Look for Culter to have plenty of time vs a D that has had multiple sacks in only 2 games this season and to take advantage of a sieve-like secondary allowing 72% comp. Big difference for Titans psyche coming into this at 3-5 after they failed to take advantage of a 13-6 4Q lead kicking off to a team they had held without a td and then to lose at home in OT.
PHIL’S FORECAST: CHICAGO 20 TENNESSEE 13
Minnesota at Seattle
The Vikings schedule takes a much tougher turn in the 2H of the season starting with SEA where 1st & 2nd year QB’s are just known for struggling here. Minnesota’s success is based on a simple formula as in all 5 wins they have topped 100 yds rushing (147 ypg & 4.7 ypc) and outrushed their opponents. In their first 2 losses they failed to top the century mark and last week they got outrushed vs TB. The Vikings have faced only one top 10 rush D (#7) and were held to a season low. Now they face the “Legion of Boom” and their #5 D and #5 rush D who have allowed 73 ypg & 3.5 ypc at home to 3 teams that avg’d 12 wins last year. Ponder made 6 road starts last year but only 1 team was even ranked in the upper half in the league on defense and that was CHI where he went 9-17-99. This year he’s faced one upper half D in DET (#8) and he was only 16-26-100 with the win coming on 2 ST td’s. Seattle’s offense, behind rookie Wilson, hasn’t been dynamic but he’s played with poise and composure having yet to toss an int at home while 8 of his 35 rush att’s have led to FD’s. Two teams I feel that are headed in different directions with the Vikings playing their toughest road game of the season and the Seahawks playing their weakest.
PHIL’S FORECAST: SEATTLE 16 MINNESOTA 6
Tampa Bay at Oakland
The Bucs are traveling across the country but the trip is made easier being off a Thursday nighter while also coming the game after a confidence building road win which was their 1st away from home in 10 tries. Tampa Bay has been severely outgained in 2 road games. I’ll go on record calling the new “Muscle Hamster” led offense dynamic as Martin has avg’d 99 ypg (5.1) rushing and 57 ypg (21.4!) rec the L/3 as the Bucs have scored in 15 of their last 17Q’s. Oakland returns home off a 26-16 win at KC but don’t get overly excited by their 2 game win streak. The Chiefs’ offense was already struggling having scored just 12 ppg in their previous 3 and they lost their starting QB while JAX’s offense avg’d just 11 ppg in their 4 prior games. OAK is struggling to apply pressure (#30 in sks) which I credit to a less aggressive D as the Raiders have always been among the league leaders in penalties but with the new coaching staff their mantra is less penalties as they have posted the 8th lowest TY. The Bucs get back-to-back road wins for first time since 2009.
PHIL’S FORECAST: TAMPA BAY 31 OAKLAND 27
Pittsburgh at NY Giants
These 2 have appeared in 4 of the L/5 Superbowls with Eli winning 2 and Big Ben dropping two. The Steelers have already beaten Washington and Philly outgaining both by 99 ypg while the Giants were outgained vs both by 72 ypg. The teams are very much alike as both have top 11 offenses that can grind it out as they each are averaging over 21 FD’s per game. On the defensive side however Pittsburgh’s season-worst was when they allowed 359 yds and 21 FD’s while NY has allowed more than that in half of their games. The Giants have needed TO’s to assist their D and they’ve done that as they are tied with NE with +13 TO’s while the Steelers are a pedestrian +1. I’ll call for the Giants by a FG in what should be an emotional gm for the city coming off the devastation of Superstorm Sandy.
PHIL’S FORECAST: NY GIANTS 27 PITTSBURGH 24
Dallas at Atlanta
The Cowboys are in a brutal division sandwich having lost to the Giants last week with a trip to Philadelphia on deck. Dallas has, however, outgained opponents on the road by 74 ypg. While the Falcons are getting outgained by 76 ypg at home they win the games they are supposed to and are the NFL’s last unbeaten team at 7-0. Dallas actually has won their last 3 gms vs teams that came in 7-0 or better and Tony Romo’s 19-2 Nov record is the best all-time. However, the Cowboys have come up just short in recent weeks and until they break through I’m going with the proven Falcons here.
PHIL’S FORECAST: ATLANTA 27 DALLAS 24
For a projected box score for these games, please click here.
Byes: New England, NY Jets, San Francisco, St Louis