|The Madden Curse has struck again and|
without bruising running back Peyton Hillis,
the Browns don't have much of a chance.
In past years, I have been a strong defender of the reality of the Madden Curse. Last season, Drew Brees was on the cover and while he did not have an awful season, he threw a career high 22 interceptions and lost his Wild Card matchup against the worst team to ever make the playoffs, a 7-9 Seattle Seahawks team.
For whatever reason this year, I jumped off the bandwagon and thought that Peyton Hillis would be able to break through the curse since he was conditioning hard than anyone else I saw in the NFL. I mean the guy was pulling trucks in Arkansas during the offseason. How could you not love a guy who does that?
However, he has been entirely irrelevant and ineffective for his team so far this season, and even more useless on my fantasy rosters. He is clearly struggling physically and mentally, and the fact that the Browns organization already came out saying they will not resign him for the 2012 season, things can only get worse. I had the Browns winning 8 games this season, but without a motivated and productive Hillis, they have no chance of getting anywhere near that number.
Austen (Seven-Point Pick) - @Houston over Cleveland
Austen (Seven-Point Pick) - @Houston over Cleveland
Austen: Clearly I am not high on the Browns right now, but there are more problems than just Hillis with this team. Cleveland has one healthy running back left on their roster, and its Chris Ogbonnaya. Considering he has never ran the ball more than 11 times in an entire season before, I think the Texans are going to blitz the heck out of the Browns and there is no way they can keep up with the Texans potent offense.
Stally: With all our talk about who's the best in the AFC, it could well end up being the Texans once Andre Johnson gets healthy. I think the Browns are more competent than some teams, but not much argument here.
Stally (Seven-Point Pick) - @Dallas over Seattle
Stally: I actually like this Texas team at home more than Houston, but that's just because I think the Seahawks are atrocious. As I wrote last night, they did not make the right decision in finding a quarterback.
Austen: Yes the Seahawks are awful, but did you see the way the Cowboys played last week against the Eagles? Terrible! The Cowboys need to realize they have a star at running back with DeMarco Murray and run the ball more to keep their offense balanced. Murray is averaging almost 10 yards a carry over the last two weeks, give him the damn ball!
Austen (Six-Point Pick) - Green Bay over @San Diego
Austen: The Packers are too good and the Chargers have been too inconsistent to knock off the only undefeated team left in the NFL. However, this should be a fun game to watch.
Stally: That's the problem though for the Packers. The Chargers are inconsistent. Historically, they seem to stink so much in the first half that you start writing them off in games like this and then, as John Madden would say, "Boom!" they upset the teams they were expected to compete with before they stunk it up.
Stally (Six-Point Pick) - @New Orleans over Tampa Bay
Stally: Austen got burned early two weeks ago by Baltimore on the road and went back to the well with them early last week at home...and just barely pulled it out. I'm doing the exact same thing this week, because there's a big disparity in skill. I think the Saints should blow them out here.
Austen: I love the Saints and I think they will pull out this win. However, the Saints have lost their last two home matchups against the Bucs in the last two years and the Bucs have already beaten them once this season. With a healthy LeGarrette Blount, maybe, just maybe, the Bucs can sneak in a win.
Austen (Five-Point Pick) - Atlanta over @Indianapolis
Austen: Just like betting on the Packers to stay undefeated, betting on the Colts to stay defeated is going to remain a solid pick. Michael Turner should run the ball about 40 times in this game and just destroy this undersized Colts' defense.
Stally: Agreed. The Colts are the worst team in the NFL, and, while the Falcons aren't a great road team, that argument only goes so far.
Stally (Five-Point Pick) - @New England over New York-G
Stally: The Patriots rarely lose two games in a row, and they rarely ever lose at home and even less to the NFC. I think I heard this week that the last time it happened was eight years ago against these same Giants. The nail in the coffin is that both Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw will be out, so that will neutralize the disadvantage that has become the Pats defense.
Austen: If Nicks and Bradshaw were healthy, I would be taking the Giants because of how poorly the Patriots defense has been all year. However, that is not the case and as Stally says, the Pats never lose two games in a row and Brady has not lost a home game since 2007. I'll be rooting for the Giants, but they will have a tough time keeping up with the Pats without two offensive stars.
Austen (Four-Point Pick) - @Kansas City over Miami
Austen: The Chiefs are very hard to beat at home, playing in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. I am once again betting on one of the worst teams in the league to stay defeated. As bad as the Dolphins have been on the field, they are apparently also falling apart in the locker room, which makes this an easy pick.
Stally: Don't forget that as bad as the Dolphins have been, the Chiefs have been on the opposite end with great play. I see this as being one of those trap games, as there's no reason for them to suspect Miami will give them a game. While the Chiefs have been very good, I'm just not positive they're good enough to completely overlook a frustrated Dolphins team looking for a win.
Stally (Four-Point Pick) - @Oakland over Broncos
Stally: I know that Austen will agree that picking against Tim Tebow is usually a good recipe for success. I'm banking on the bye-week having given Carson Palmer time to learn his offensive weapons, but Darren McFadden's injury is certainly a worry.
Austen: If Stally had not taken this one, I would have taken it with my next pick. I think every week I have to state how bad I think the Broncos are, with or without Tebow throwing their season away. The Raiders have the depth at running back to overcome the loss of McFadden, so this comes down to Palmer simply being efficient enough to knock off a rival at home.
Austen (Three-Point Pick) - San Francisco over @Washington
Austen: After a great start, the Redskins have completely fell apart. The offense is completely ineffective (they were shut out by the Bills last week) and their defense has seemingly gotten worse every game this season. The 49ers are playing out of their minds right now and I cannot even imagine a way they lose this game.
Stally: I see this as a similar trap to what Kansas City is facing in that both the Chiefs and the Niners are far better than we expected, which raises the doubt of if they'll regress at all. Like the Chiefs, they're a good football team, but they're not good enough to get over confident. Yes, I still think KC and San Fran are the clear favorites, but I wouldn't be surprised if one of the two lost inexplicably.
Stally (Three-Point Pick) - @Pittsburgh over Baltimore
Stally: Pittsburgh is simply playing better football right now. These two teams usually split the season series and after the Ravens embarrassed the Steelers in Week 1, I expect Pittsburgh to return the favor.
Austen: I have Pittsburgh in this one as well, but I never like taking this matchup. I got burned on taking the Steelers in Week 1, so I had no plans on taking them again, despite how well they played against the Patriots last week.
Austen (Two-Point Pick) - Cincinnati over @Tennessee
Austen: The Bengals defense has been outstanding this season and Chris Johnson has been atrocious. Unless Javon Ringer can become a consistent force in their run game, I don't see a way the Titans can win this one, even at home. I'm interested to see how the Andy Dalton to A.J. Green connection will play against physical corner Cortland Finnegan.
Stally: I definitely can see a way the Titans win, that's a little outlandish. I actually did a double take to make sure that I read it correctly you picked Cincy. Then I checked and realized I'd initially picked them too! I'm hemming-and-hawing, but I'm going to change that. Yes, the Bengals have much better team than we thought they'd be, and the Titans have been inconsistent. It'll depend on what Titans team takes the field in Nashville, but this is the time of year that if you're a good team you need to show it. I think Tennessee is a pretty good team.
Austen: After thinking they were a terrible team, then being convinced otherwise, and thusly being burned by their mediocrity, I am back on the Titans being a subpar team, especially without any hope of an explosive Chris Johnson. I'm fully on the Bengals bandwagon as well. Let's see how long that lasts.
Stally (Two-Point Pick) - St. Louis over @Arizona
Stally: The Rams showed me something last week against the Saints. They finally showed some signs of the team we thought they'd be at the start of the season. Arizona has shown me nothing and with Kevin Kolb out, I do not think John Skelton's going to do much at QB for the Cards.
Austen: I think John Skelton might put up a better performance than Kolb has all season. I like the Cards at home this week simply because I am not buying the Rams are nearly as good as they performed last week. I don't think the Rams have an answer to covering Larry Fitzgerald and I see Beanie Wells having a good game against the Rams. It should be a close game
Austen (One-Point Pick) - New York-J over @Buffalo
Stally: Austen read the pick sheet wrong when he set up the post and missed any preview of his beloved Jets, thinking he'd picked the below game. That's great! It means that since he stole the preview of my pick, I'm going to go ahead and prematurely rain on the parade. I think the Bills are every bit as good as the Jets, probably better, and they've been very good at home. I'd take the Bills, myself, and I'm excited to see them beat Austen's Jets!
Austen: Sorry for the mix up! Don't know how I mixed that one up. Either way, I think the Bills defense is much weakened by the loss of defensive captain Kyle Williams. Williams does not get the attention a lot of other nose tackles have, but he is as good as any of them. Despite causing a lot of turnovers, the Bills' defense has been mediocre even with him in the lineup this season, especially against the run. That gives the Jets the edge in this game. Also, the Jets corners have been outstanding all season and that allows them to key in on Fred Jackson. Should be a fun game to watch with a lot of playoff implications.
Stally (One-Point Pick) - Chicago over @Philadelphia
Austen: The Eagles' defense is finally playing up to the hype. Their amazing depth at corner back allowed them to completely shut down the Cowboys' explosive receiver, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. The Bears have no one even close to as talented as either of those receivers and that allows the Eagles' defense to focus entirely on stopping Matt Forte. And do not forget that the Eagles have one of the best defensive lines in all of football and the Bears have one of the worst offensive lines. Jay Cutler is going to take a beating in this one.
Stally: Ok, I mean this was my pick and I took the Bears, but I'm glad you gave a counterpoint for why you liked the Eagles. Look, everyone likes the Eagles. Everyone's liked the Eagles all year. No one likes the Bears. No one liked them last year when they almost beat the Packers in the NFC Championship with Caleb Hanie at quarterback. They do better than people expect and always seem to do well on prime time. I'm sticking with them despite most people jumping back on the Eagles' bandwagon after one good game.
New York-J @ Buffalo - 1 p.m.
Austen: New York-J
Seattle @ Dallas - 1 p.m.
Atlanta @ Indianapolis - 1 p.m.
Miami @ Kansas City - 1 p.m.
Stally: Kansas City
Austen: Kansas City
Tampa Bay @ New Orleans - 1 p.m.
Stally: New Orleans
Austen: New Orleans
San Francisco @ Washington - 1 p.m.
Stally: San Francisco
Austen: San Francisco
Cleveland @ Houston - 1 p.m.
Cincinnati @ Tennessee - 4:05 p.m.
Denver @ Oakland - 4:05 p.m.
New York-G @ New England - 4:15 p.m.
Stally: New England
Austen: New York-G
St. Louis @ Arizona - 4:15 p.m.
Stally: St. Louis
Green Bay @ San Diego - 4:15 p.m.
Stally: San Diego
Austen: Green Bay
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh - 8:20 p.m.
Chicago @ Philadelphia - 8:30 p.m.
This is by far the most games Stally and I have disagreed on all season, so we will see who ends up on top! Should be a fun week of football.