The main surprises this year are the dismal form Dallas, Minnesota and San Diego are in; all three were expected to have big seasons however it now looks unlikely that all three will make the post season and they could all miss out.
On the positive side Kansas City have probably already exceeded their fans expectations and although their schedule is a little tougher going down the track they could just about hang on for the division and a first visit to the post season since 2006.
Anyway to this weeks 13 games which includes some nice divisional rivalry match ups and a couple of must wins.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta – Tampa are doing much better than expected this year and if they could pull off a win against the Falcons the NFC South would suddenly become very interesting. They did their best to throw it away last week against Arizona and their win has to go down to the Cardinals QB problems rather than their stunning play. The Falcons are coming off a bye week but went int it with a battling win against Cincinnati in which Michael Turners 121 yards rushing was their highlight. They will be well rested and we take the Falcons in this one by 7-10 points.
Chicago at Buffalo Bills – The Bills are a whole lot better than their 0-7 record would have you believe and having lost in OT two weeks running they are due a bit of good fortune. Their latest signing Shawne Merriman is unlikely to start, but his arrival will have caused a bit of a buzz and this could translate into a win. The Bears are improving but we are still not convinced that they have the offensive line to make the playoffs and although they are good against the run we feel they might just come up short here. Our tip is the Bills by 3-7 points in a lowish scoring game.
New England at Cleveland – The Patriots continue to win despite clearly being in rebuilding mode this season and with draft picks piling up they once again look well placed to be the team to beat in the forthcoming decade. The Browns under the off field guidance of Mike Holgren seem to be improving but they wont find Tom Brady as generous as Drew Brees was last week and we expect a Patriots win by 10 points +
NY Jets at Detroit Lions – All those early draft picks are starting to pay dividends for the Lions and although they still have plenty of gaps on the roster they are moving in the right direction. The Jets on the other hand are stuffed with talent – even if they have mortgaged their future to get it, and despite looking pretty ordinary against the beaten up Packers last week should have a little too much for the Lions in this one. Could be close but its the Jets for us by 3-7 points
New Orleans at Carolina – The saints had a nightmare last week and will be pleased they are facing one of the seasons lesser lights as they need to get back on track badly. The Panthers are young and inexperienced – which has shown in some of their defeats and they will lose this one to continue their poor season. The Saints by 7-10 points.
Miami at Baltimore – This is a bit of a crunch game for both teams with Miami needing a win to stay in touch with their strong AFC East rivals and the Ravens knowing that Pittsburgh are still breathing down their necks. Given the divisions are so tight this year head to head results could yet come into play to decide the wild cards so like we said this a a big one. Overall with the Ravens being at home and applying the form through the Steelers we will give Baltimore the edge by 3-7 points.
San Diego at Houston – Nothing seems to be going right for the The Chargers although last weeks big win against the Titans should have boosted their confidence a bit. They are no 1 in the NFL in passing and no1 against the pass and no 2 against the Run so how come they are 3-5? Well its either complacency or pure bad luck and they could easily be 8-0 right now if not for mistakes. Houston are continuing to make progress and their 4-3 record is pretty impressive considering the teams they have played so far. This is a must win for the Chargers as slipping to 3-6 will leave them with a mountain to climb in the West although 10-6 should get a wild card this year. Overall its the Chargers for us by 7-10 points.
Arizona at Minnesota – With Randy Moss now relegated to the annals of Viking history its time for the team to pull together and start showing what a team of their quality can do. Like the Chargers they are probably a lot better than their record would suggest and although they will have to go some to catch the Packers with plenty of divisional games left they can still make the playoffs. However a loss here and they can probably forget about it. The Cardinals are very up and down and there is little doubt they will be shopping for a QB for next season. Its hard to se the cardinals getting a win here and we expect Minnesota to cover a fairly wide spread. The Vikings to win by 10 points +
NY Giants at Seattle Seahawks – The Giants have got their act together after a slightly shakey start which to be fair included defeats to Indy and the Titans, hardly a disaster. since falling to 1-2 they have strung 4 good wins together and they should make it 5 with a win here. The Seahawks are playing a lot better than we expected and currently they lead a pretty poor NFC West at 4-3. They should make a game of it but we expect the Giants to win by 7-10 points.
Indianapolis at Philadelphia – The Eagles have played pretty well this year despite clearing the decks of so many veterans, however their QB situation remains a concern and that will probably cost them any chance thy might have of the playoffs this year. Indy are a bit beaten up and suddenly their roster looks a bit thin, however they are still top of the AFC South and have had 3 good wins of late a testament to their determination. The Eagles go into this one 3 point favourites but havn’t beaten the Colts since 1993 and we are not sure they can this time either. We are going with Indy by 3-7 points.
Kansas City at Oakland – KC are having a great season with a team built mainly from New England cast offs and good draft picks, however we still think they are over achieving this year and despite Oakland not being the most feared team in the AFC they should be good enough to win this one at home. The Raiders to win by 7 points +
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers – This is a must win for the Cowboys, who are having a dismal 2010 and are by far the biggest surprise of the season languishing at 1-6. Dropping to 1-7 will effectively end their season and we expect the Packers to apply the coup de grace on Sunday although they might not cover the spread. Green Bay to win by 3-7 points.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati – Tough game to call with the Bengals hdue a win after 4 close defeats and Pittsburgh due a Monday night loss having won 5 in a row on a Monday. Anyway meaningless stats aside Cincinnati +5 on the spread looks attractive and we think they might just edge it anyway and will predict a Bengals win by 3-7 points.
Byes: Denver, Tennessee, St. Louis, San Francisco, Washington, Jacksonville