Saturday, November 19, 2011

Week 11: The Midseason Grind

When the Chiefs injured Tom Brady,
Matt Cassel emerged as a starter.
Unfortunately, Cassel is now out for KC.
It's a pretty ho-hum week in the NFL as we plug along into the later part of the season.  This will be the last week we see any teams on bye and with New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Houston all out, we lost some of the crop of solid teams that make for good games.

For the most part, we'll see either good teams against bad teams or mediocre teams against one another.  That's not to deter anyone from watching, the playoff race is in full swing, so a game like Atlanta and Tennessee could have huge implications, but that's not exactly a matchup any of us are highlighting as "must watch."

Austen (Seven-Point Pick) - @New England over Kansas City

Austen: The Jets may not be as good as we thought they were, and maybe the Patriots are not as good as expected either, but there is no way this Pats team loses to a Matt Cassel-less Chiefs team. I am sure Brady is still pissed about having his home record broken by the Giants, so there will be a little extra motivation on Brady's part.

Stally: The Chiefs have overcome injuries to big name players like Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles, but the QB is a whole different issue.  New England's pass defense is still in shambles, but I can't see the Tyler Palko getting it done.  I mean, the guy's 28 and in just his second NFL season, there's not much future here.

Stally (Seven-Point Pick) - @Green Bay over Tampa Bay

Stally: Green Bay hasn't lost yet.  What are the chances they lose to a sinking Buccaneers team at home?  Um, slim to none.

Austen: The Bucs only chance in this game is if the Packers come out too confident and get sloppy. I do not see that happening, but maybe this is the Bucs week?

Stally: If you were asking me, my answer is clearly: No!

Austen (Six-Point Pick) - Dallas over @Washington

Austen: I do not care how good your defense is, if you do not have a true number one receiver on your roster and you have no idea who should be atop your depth chart at the quarterback or the running back positions, you will not win many games. This is the situation facing the Redskins, and their defense has not been very good. All signs point to the big fat L in Washington.

Stally: The Redskins are quickly turning into one of the worst teams in the league and I still expect the Cowboys to emerge from the NFC East.

Stally (Six-Point Pick) - @San Francisco over Arizona

Stally: There's a huge discrepancy in talent here.  Heck, there was a huge discrepancy last season!  The Niners might not have won as many games as they expected last year, but they cleaned up on Arizona.  If they don't win this game in dominant fashion, we'll need to reconsider just how good we think this team might have become.

Austen: With Frank Gore being a bit banged up despite being cleared to play, this could be a trap game for the 49ers. The Cardinals are rejuvenated by the impressive play of John Skelton and there is a small chance, yet still a chance, Arizona steals a win.

Austen (Five-Point Pick) - @Atlanta over Tennessee

Austen: It is hard to bet against Matt Ryan at home and I am still not sold on the Titans being an above average team. I think Michael Turner does just enough to pull off a win and the Falcons' defense helps Chris Johnson continue his subpar 2011 season.

Stally: The Titans might not be above average, but they have the same record as the Falcons at 5-4.  I'm not sold the Falcons are an above average team, either!  I'm wavering on this one, but I'll go with Tennessee for nothing more justifiable than a hunch.  Chris Johnson seemed to get some mojo back last week, and they seem to be consistently decent.

Stally (Five-Point Pick) - @Detroit over Carolina

Stally: Both of these teams looked better a month ago than they do now.  At least Detroit still seems like they're capable of winning games.  Plus, the Lions are at home.  I don't see a way Carolina upsets in this one.

Austen: Cam Newton has not been nearly as effective in recent weeks as he was in the beginning of the season, but the Lions have also really struggled to overcome their terrible play in the first halves of games. The Lions' offensive line has gone back to being mediocre at best and Matt Stafford is taking hits all over the place again. Do not forget the Panthers paid Charles Johnson over $70 million to rush the passer (he already has seven sacks this season) and he could be the reason the Panthers sneak away with a win.

Stally: You're right about Stafford.  He even gets hit while kneeling on the ground after trying to make a tackle on an interception for the other team.  They have some real goons in Chicago!

Austen (Four Point Pick) - New York-Jets over @Denver

Austen: This game has already happened and my heart was crushed by Tim-freaking-Tebow. This was a game the Jets simply had to win, but yet again they let down their fan base. Stally, shoot away with the Tebow jokes.

Stally: ...*Silence*...*Looks up*...Oh, me?  Sorry, I was busy Tebowing to give thanks to God for making Tim Tebow so horrible at quarterbacking and yet so good at winning.  I mean, the Jets got beat by Tim Tebow, c'mon, Man!

Stally (Four-Point Pick) - @Baltimore over Cincinnati

Stally: Confused about the Ravens?  Don't be!  They don't get up on the road against lousy teams.  All three losses have come on the road against teams they didn't take seriously.  They're home and the Bengals are 6-3, so neither of the things that trigger losses are present here.  Baltimore's the better team, it will win.

Austen: It looks as if Ray Lewis is going to miss this game, which to me would give the edge to the Bengals. However, all star rookie receiver A.J. Green will most likely miss the game for the Bengals as well. Your guess is as good as mine on who will take this one and I think this game will come down to the last seconds. Whatever team can run the ball more effectively will win this game, which gives the edge to the Ravens, but barely.

Stally: My guess was the Ravens...clearly!

Austen (Three-Point Pick) - @New York-G over Philadelphia

Austen: No Michael Vick, no problem. Vick has been terrible so far this season. However, no Jeremy Maclin is a much bigger problem for this team. Vince Young needs all the underneath receivers he can use and the loss of Maclin will make things very difficult for him to be successful through the air. LeSean McCoy will have to dominate this game for the Eagles to even keep it close.

Stally: I'd originally picked the Eagles to win, but that was before Vick was ruled out.  I agree he hasn't been good, but V.Y. hasn't been good since that 2006 Rose Bowl horror show.  This is the Giants' game (and division) to lose right now.

Stally (Three-Point Pick) - @St. Louis over Seattle

Stally: The Rams are starting to look half competent, not fully competent, but it's a start.  Aside from a mind-boggling destruction of the Giants in New York, the Seahawks have looked awful on the road.  It's hard to bank on the Rams, but they're a clear favorite, so three points isn't a bad risk for this one.

Austen: The Rams' run defense has been atrocious all season and Marshawn Lynch has been on a hot streak recently.  It is hard to bet on the Seahawks, but I really believe that Lynch will control this game and give Seattle a huge road victory.

Austen (Two-Point Pick) - Oakland over @Minnesota

Austen: Carson Palmer is back and the Vikings' defensive backfield is one of the weakest in the NFL. Michael Bush is showing why he was once a Heisman candidate and looking to be a first round draft pick before a career threatening injury.  I am a big Christian Ponder fan, but outside of Adrian Peterson, Ponder does not have much to work with.

Stally:  You showed a little hope for the Vikings there, and I'm going to take it!  I like this home game for Minnesota and think that Ponder and A.P. will find a way to beat a Raiders team that I still don't fully buy into.

Stally (Two-Point Pick) - Buffalo over @Miami

Stally: The Dolphins don't have much of a home-field advantage, so that's not a big issue for me.  While the Bills have regressed noticeably lately, I was saying even before the season they were the better of the two and still think that's evident.

Austen: The Bills have shown me nothing of late to prove to me that they are worth betting on, even against one of the worst teams in the NFL. They are also facing a couple of critical injuries in their receiving corps, which really limits an offense that is already lacking a real explosive threat in the passing game. Matt Moore is looking calm and confident, much like he was two seasons ago in Carolina, when the Panthers thought he could be their quarterback of the future. I like the Dolphins in this one, but they have burned me in the past.

Austen (One-Point Pick) - @Chicago over San Diego

Austen: The Bears are simply playing great football right now in all three phases of the game. The Chargers on the other hand, have been downright awful all around. With Pro Bowl left tackle Marcus McNeill out for the year being replaced by Brandyn Dombrowski, who allowed Kamerion Wimbley to take down Phillip Rivers four times last week, the Chargers are going to have to run a lot of max protection to slow down Julius Peppers and the rest of the Bears' pass rushers. This allows the Bears' defense to double cover both Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates, which will force Rivers to go to his third and fourth options in the passing game. I would be shocked if the Chargers escape with a win and they will be lucky to leave Chicago without any more significant injuries.

Stally: You wouldn't be that shocked, would you?  I mean, if you were that confident, you would have picked this before it was worth just one point, right!?  I always find that as soon as you buy the Chargers they're worthless and as soon as you sell them, they turn to gold.  It's best to buck the trend on San Diego, so I'm going with this hapless looking team to win.

Stally (One-Point Pick) - Jacksonville over @Cleveland

Stally: I don't like take Jacksonville on the road, I just don't think Cleveland's any good without running backs Peyton Hillis or Montario Hardesty.  They've looked anemic lately.  The Jaguars at least look somewhat capable of winning a game, which is more than I can say about the Browns of late.

Austen: The Jags' defense is surprisingly one of the better defenses in the league and the Browns have one of the worst offenses in the league. This will be yet another low scoring outing for both of these teams, but since the Browns are 30th in the league in points, MJD should have a big day and carry his team to a win.

Pick 'Em

New York-J @ Denver - Thursday
Stally: New York-J
Austen: New York-J

Jacksonville @ Cleveland - Sun, 1 p.m.
Stally: Jacksonville
Austen: Jacksonville

Carolina @ Detroit - Sun, 1 p.m.
Stally: Detroit
Austen: Detroit

Tampa Bay @ Green Bay - Sun, 1 p.m.
Stally: Green Bay
Austen: Green Bay

Buffalo @ Miami - Sun, 1 p.m.
Stally: Buffalo
Austen: Miami

Oakland @ Minnesota - Sun, 1 p.m.
Stally: Minnesota
Austen: Oakland

Dallas @ Washington - Sun, 1 p.m.
Stally: Dallas
Austen: Dallas

Cincinnati @ Baltimore - Sun, 1 p.m.
Stally: Baltimore
Austen: Baltimore

Seattle @ St. Louis - Sun, 4:05 p.m.
Stally: St. Louis
Austen: Seattle

Arizona @ San Francisco - Sun, 4:05 p.m.
Stally: San Francisco
Austen: San Francisco

Tennessee @ Atlanta - Sun, 4:15 p.m.
Stally: Tennessee
Austen: Atlanta

San Diego @ Chicago - Sun, 4:15 p.m.
Stally: San Diego
Austen: Chicago

Philadelphia @ New York-G - Sun, 8:20 p.m.
Stally: New York-G
Austen: New York-G

Kansas City @ New England - Mon, 8:30 p.m.
Stally: New England
Austen: New England

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